Women are said to be going through menopause when their bodies gradually begin reducing their production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. For some women, this drop in female hormones may lead to unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. While these menopause symptoms may go away on their own, women who have particularly uncomfortable or long-lasting symptoms can talk to their doctors about hormone replacement therapy.
Hormone replacement therapy increases estrogen (and sometimes progesterone) levels in the body, which can reduce unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. This type of therapy also reduces a woman’s risk for osteoporosis (bone thinning).
Estrogen pills are the most common form of hormone replacement therapy, but they’re far from the only option. Estrogen patches for menopause, such as Minivelle, Vivelle, and Climara, are another type of therapy that has been growing in popularity.
Vivelle is one type of estrogen patch used by women during menopause.
As with all treatment types, there are both benefits and side effects associated with estrogen patch use:
Pros of Estrogen Patches
• They’re easy to remember. Depending on the specific product, an estrogen patch may only need to be replaced once or twice a week. Some women find this more convenient than remembering to take a pill every day.
• They’re lower strength. The estrogen in patches is absorbed directly through the skin and doesn’t have to be metabolized in the liver, which means it can be administered in a lower dose than most pills and still be effective. However, not enough research has been done to determine if the lower dose of estrogen in patches lowers the risk for side effects.
• They’re safer for women with liver problems. Because the estrogen in patches bypasses the liver, this type of treatment is safer for women who have a liver condition.
Cons of Estrogen Patches
• They have the same risks as estrogen pills. Like pills, estrogen patches may slightly increase a woman’s risk for blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
• They may cause certain side effects. Like estrogen pills, patches may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, breast tenderness, and vaginal discharge. Because they are placed directly on the skin, patches may also cause mild irritation at the application site.
• High heat can make them less effective. Exposure to heat may cause too much of the estrogen to be released into the bloodstream at once, which means the patch won’t work for as long as it’s supposed to. Women wearing an estrogen patch should avoid tanning beds and saunas.
Are Estrogen Patches Right for You?
If you’ve been suffering from uncomfortable menopause symptoms and are considering an estrogen patch, your next step should be to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of different hormone replacement therapies for menopause with you and make a recommendation for treatment.