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Dona Caine-Francis offers a variety of articles related to anxiety and sex therapy, couples and marriage counseling, and medication management to help individuals nurture their emotional and sexual health. 

  • Writer's pictureDona Caine-Francis

Bioidentical Hormones: The Facts

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Discover How to Bioidentical Hormones Are Helping Women Increase Their Quality of Life During Menopause

One of the most current trends in hormone therapy for women experiencing menopause is bioidentical hormones. Popularity is on the rise and yet, there is a lot of contradictory information out there. If women want to try these new options, they need to know the facts and where to find them.

What are they? Bioidentical hormones are chemically produced to be identical to hormones that naturally occur in a woman’s body. Once an individual is tested, treatment is based on a unique cocktail of hormones designed to replace her body’s deficiencies. Soy products can be compounded to replicate the body’s estradiol while yam products represent the progestin levels.

Some synthetic estrogens, or estradiol products, are developed by pharmaceutical companies such as Estrace, Climara or Estring that are chemically identical to the estrogens made by women’s ovaries. Compounding pharmacies are able to provide various forms of the products such as creams, gels, patches, and oral preparations for hormone therapy, thus described as “bioidentical”.

Why are some doctors against biodentical hormones? Although some estrogen and progesterone components are FDA approved, the mixtures are not; they are natural substances prepared by compounding pharmacies. Second, an economic issue prevails. These medications must be prescribed by a provider, but they are not manufactured by a pharmaceutical company so the rigorous studies are absent. Ongoing studies persist to determine the effectiveness of bioidenticals; yet, without the backing from pharmaceutical companies studies will be slow and funded on private dollars.

Whether bioidentical estrogen and progesterone are safer or superior is unproven. Between 2003 and 2008, prescriptions for bioidentical estradiol-based products rose from 22 to 35 percent of the supplemental estrogen market while those for Premarin tables fell from 53 to 35 percent, according to IMS Health, a healthcare information and consulting company.

Bioidenticals have gained in popularity predominately due to the bad reputation of hormone therapy in the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) report that issued alarming findings that taking estrogen and progestin could increase the risk of both breast cancer and heart disease. In addition, reports showed that the hormones didn’t seem to help much with sleep, depression, energy, or sexual satisfaction compared with placebo.

Where can I find them? Talk with your physician. Women deserve options for hormone therapy (HT) and those who enter my office with their research in hand wanting to try a cream, or transdermal patch instead of a pill that has systemic effects deserves a clinician with an open mind to help her look at her health history, risk factors, disturbing symptoms and a plan that is not a one-pill-fits-all approach.

If you were to ask my clients if their quality of life has improved with the advent of bioidentical hormone therapy, many would be quick to say “absolutely” and even more would put up quite a fight and not be willing to give up their patch, creams or pills.


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