August 26, 2008

Hormone Therapy Lifts the Love Life

By HILL, Ruth

HORMONE replacement therapy could be "the female Viagra" for post- menopausal women, new research involving Wellington women suggests.

The study, which included 2130 women in New Zealand, Australia and Britain, found those taking combined oestrogen and progestogen hormone therapy had better sex lives, improved sleep and less joint pain.

Lead New Zealand researcher Beverley Lawton, director of the Women's Health Research Centre at Otago University, said the new research should give peace of mind to women and their doctors about HRT, which fell out of vogue after a 2002 study linking long-term use with an increased risk of blood clots, breast cancer and heart attacks.

"There's been a lot of fear about HRT almost approaching mythical proportions ... but what this research shows is that for most women, the benefits outweigh the risks."

The average age of women in the trial was 62, and most were several years past menopause with few or no symptoms.

Dr Lawton said it would have been unethical to put women suffering serious menopausal symptoms on a placebo.

"However, seeing the benefits for those less-affected, it stands to reason that women with severe symptoms would have even more to gain from HRT."

Dr Lawton said many women found sex drive disappeared after menopause, replaced by sleeplessness and night sweats. "Some said the loss of libido was like a light switch being turned off, but HRT restored it.

"It's not Viagra, but the participants were quite delighted."

Though HRT could carry a slightly increased risk of blood clots (similar to plane travel, the contraceptive pill and pregnancy) and a higher incidence of breast cancer (less than 0.1 per cent increased risk per year of use after seven years), new data suggests HRT could lower the risk of heart disease.

The study was published on the British Medical Journal website yesterday.

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