What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Hormone Replacement Therapy

If you've been through menopause and experienced strong symptoms, you might have considered hormone replacement therapy for some relief. While it's safe to practice at a low dose for a short time, doctors don't recommend hormone replacement therapy for long periods of time — and quitting it may take a while.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medication containing female hormones. It primarily focuses on replacing the estrogen that the body stops making after going through menopause (via Mayo Clinic). This helps reduce hot flashes and vaginal discomfort, which can feel intolerable for some while going through menopause. Doctors often prescribe progesterone along with estrogen, which balances estrogen and reduces the potential harm that too much of it can cause.

While there are benefits associated with HRT, clinical trials have also shown that there are some risks (via WebMD). These risks depend on how old you were when you started HRT, as well as how long you've been on it. If you start HRT when you're 60 years old or older or more than 10 years since menopause began, your risk of heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer increases (via Mayo Clinic). However, if you begin HRT before the age of 60 or within 10 years from the start of menopause, the benefits usually outweigh the risks.

Quit hormone replacement therapy slowly

Typically, doctors only recommend HRT for the shortest amount of time possible at the lowest dose possible (via WebMD). If you've been on hormones for more than five years or are over the age of 59, you might consult with your doctor about quitting.

Doctors recommend quitting HRT gradually over time, rather than going cold turkey, according to Breastcancer.org. This is because menopausal symptoms can come back as soon as you go off of the hormones, which may encourage you to restart HRT. Certain symptoms, like hot flashes, can pass after a few years, and some become less intense over time. By the time you quit hormones, your symptoms may be mild enough to be fine without them.

To relieve symptoms as you come off of HRT, your doctor may prescribe a low-dose antidepressant or low-dose estrogen that's administered vaginally (via WebMD). It's also recommended to dress in layers, drink cool drinks, avoid spicy food and alcohol, and exercise daily as your body adjusts to life without hormone replacement therapy.