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Menopause health centre

Different kinds of HRT products

BMJ Group Medical Reference

You can take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in several different ways. It comes as:

  • Tablets

  • Skin patches

  • Gels you spread on your skin

  • Implants (small pellets put just under your skin).

You can also get oestrogen creams, rings, and tablets (pessaries) that you put in your vagina.

All these options mean that you can choose the product that's best for you. For example, you may prefer wearing an HRT patch to taking tablets. Hormones from the patch are absorbed gradually through your skin. When you take a tablet, the medicine goes first from your stomach and intestines to your liver, where it has to be broken down. This means you have to take a higher dose of oestrogen. On the other hand, some women find they can't use patches because their skin gets sore and irritated.

If your main symptom is vaginal dryness or pain having sex, or you have problems when you urinate, you may prefer to use a vaginal tablet, cream, or ring instead of a tablet you swallow or a patch. Doctors only prescribe these oestrogen products for vaginal dryness or problems urinating, not for other symptoms of the menopause. This is because, although these products have an effect on the vagina, not much oestrogen gets into the bloodstream, so they can't help with other symptoms.

Researchers aren't sure whether vaginal oestrogen products increase the risk of cancer of the lining of the womb when they are used for long periods. Oestrogen patches and tablets can increase your risk of this kind of cancer. Generally, doctors think vaginal HRT is unlikely to increase the risk. But you should use the lowest amount that works for your symptoms. As with all HRT products, you should have a check-up every year with your doctor. [41]



Oestrogen is the name given to three female sex hormones: oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol. Oestrogen causes women's sexual development during puberty: it is needed to develop breasts, have periods and get pregnant. Oestrogen is also thought to affect women's health in other ways. It may influence their mood, cholesterol levels and how their bones grow. Men have very low levels of oestrogen in their bodies, but doctors aren't completely sure what it does. Oestrogen is an important ingredient in most types of contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy.

For more terms related to Menopause


For references related to Menopause click here.
Last Updated: March 25, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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