Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) (cont.)
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Is HRT safe for me to take if I have premature ovarian failure?
Most health care providers believe that HRT replaces what your body should be making naturally as a young woman, and that your body needs these hormones to function normally. HRT taken by women with premature ovarian failure is very different from the hormone therapy that is often taken by women who are going through or have already gone through natural menopause.
A study found that older women, who had gone through normal menopause, were at increased risk for certain health conditions when they took a certain type of hormone therapy for long periods of time. The study was part of the Women's Health Initiative, a large, multi-center study that involved more than 161,000 postmenopausal women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. The researchers found that these women, who went through natural menopause at the expected age, were at greater risk for stroke, blood clots, heart disease, heart attacks, and breast cancer after taking a specific type of hormone therapy for more than five years.
These results do not apply to young women taking HRT; specifically, these results don't apply to young women with premature ovarian failure. Women in the study mentioned above were between the ages of 50 and 79 when the study began and had gone through menopause at the normally expected time; their bodies would not normally be making high levels of hormones. The type of therapy taken by women in the Women's Health Initiative study could be called hormone extension therapy, rather than hormone replacement therapy, as is often reported. These women took the hormones beyond the time that the hormones would naturally be present. Women with premature ovarian failure get hormone replacement therapy; that is, the HRT is providing something their bodies would normally be making, if they didn't have premature ovarian failure.
The type and amount of HRT prescribed to women with premature ovarian failure is different from the hormone therapy taken by women in the Women's Health Initiative study. For example, women with premature ovarian failure usually take full-dose estrogen replacement therapy, meaning the amount of estrogen is nearer or equal to the level normally found in a young healthy woman, whose ovaries are working properly, before menopause. Hormone therapy for women who have already gone through menopause is a much lower dose. And, women with premature ovarian failure typically use a patch to deliver the hormone estrogen, but take a pill that provides progestin. This regimen is different than the one used in the Women's Health Initiative, which had women take a pill that contained both estrogen and progestin.
Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about HRT as a treatment for premature ovarian failure. He or she can explain the benefits and risks of HRT for your specific situation as a young woman. It is important to remember that young women with premature ovarian failure differ from older menopausal women in many significant ways. Your health care provider should consider these issues when deciding on the best treatment for you.
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