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Stopping HRT-Your grandma survived without it; so can you

Of course, I realize that for women like me, who may no longer have any ovaries, stopping HRT may take a long time. But I think it's doable....a woman's body eventually adjusts to functioning without the ovaries and the hormones they produced.

In 1991, I underwent a hysterectomy and ovary removal procedure, and although I was only 38 years old at the time, I was immediately catapulted into surgical menopause. In other words, I had become a much older woman going through natural menopause, but with symptoms of greater intensity.

When a woman's ovaries are removed at the same time as her uterus, some of the nastier symptoms she may experience include severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, depression, anxiety, and loss of libido, just to mention a few. In most cases, doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for relief of these symptoms, but it doesn't always work. At least not according to my personal experience, and that of the many women I interviewed for my book, "Misinformed Consent: Women's Stories about Unnecessary Hysterectomy" (Next Decade, Inc., 2003). All commented on how difficult it was to find an effective and safe therapy.

Studies on HRT are coming at us from all sides, but are they really presenting new information? In the introduction to her book, The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth (Hyperion Press, 2003), Barbara Seaman writes that the risks associated with estrogens have been known for a long time. According to Seaman's research, when the British biochemist first published his formula for oral estrogens in 1938, he claimed that drugs containing estrogens showed promise, but he also spent years warning his colleagues that estrogens could also put women at risk of endometrial and breast cancer.

Women have reason to be concerned. I know I am. That's because, until recently, I had been on the highest dose of a combined form of HRT since June of 1999. I decided to call Dr. Stanley West of New York, author of "The Hysterectomy Hoax" (Next Decade, Inc., 2002), to ask him about my chances of surviving without HRT.

"You can survive quite well without HRT (your grandmother did). Because of the problems associated with, and the lack of benefit in HRT, we advise women to wean themselves off it, whether or not they have ovaries."

So, with the help of my GP and my gynecologist, I began weaning myself off HRT last December. My prescription has been gradually decreased from the highest dose to the lowest. Then I began alternating days, before I attempted to decrease to twice weekly. At some point, I will decrease to just once weekly, and then to bi-weekly before stopping completely.

Of course, I realize that for women like me, who may no longer have any ovaries, stopping HRT may take a long time. But I think it's doable, and in my view, much better than exposure to the risk of invasive breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots.

Many of my research contacts have pointed out that a woman's body eventually adjusts to functioning without the ovaries and the hormones they produced. Recently, I was surprised when a pharmaceutical chemist, David Garshowitz at York Downs Pharmacy in Toronto, said the same thing. Given my painless and practically symptom-free experience at decreasing my HRT, I think they may be right.

Time will tell, I suppose, but even if my final outcome isn't perfect, I happen to be in agreement with Joy Sheldon, a woman from British Columbia who told me in a recent letter: "I'd rather flush than die." She makes a good point, don t you think?

For excellent information on natural alternatives to HRT, go to www.hormonehelp.com, the web site of Dr. Karen Jensen, ND, and Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe, BSc, authors of "No More HRT: Menopause, Treat the Cause".

Lise Cloutier-Steele is a communications specialist and the author of "Misinformed Consent: Women's Stories about Unnecessary Hysterectomy", and "Living and Learning with a Child who Stutters" (NC Press Ltd., 1995).

 

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Updated  05/15/2010