A common prescription by doctors to help with menopause symptoms is to prescribe hormones. When a menopausal women takes hormones it can often help with sleep, memory, and more, but recent studies by researchers at Helsinki University in Finland have shown that this is only the case when a woman also has hot flashes and night sweats. Their study was published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society.
NAMS and 14 other leading women's health organizations agree that hormone therapy is acceptable at menopause for most women who are bothered by moderate to severe menopause symptoms. For women who aren't bothered by moderate to severe hot flashes, this study indicates that hormone therapy will not improve their quality of life. The 150 women in the Helsinki study had recently gone through menopause. Seventy-two of them had seven or more moderate to severe hot flashes per day, whereas 78 had three or fewer mild hot flashes per day - or no hot flashes at all.
For six months, about half the women in each group used hormone therapy (of various kinds) and half got only a placebo with no hormones. A limitation of the study, is that the women were white, healthy, and lean, so the results may not apply to women of other ethnicities or with other existing health conditions. At the beginning and during the study, the women tracked their hot flashes and answered questions about their general health, sexual well being, and menopause symptoms, such as insomnia, depressed mood, nervousness, aching joints or muscles, memory and concentration, anxiety and fears, and menstrual cycle-like complaints, such as abdominal bloating and breast tenderness.
The women with moderate to severe hot flashes had more sleep problems, irritability, exhaustion, depressed mood, joint pains, palpitations, nausea, and swelling than the other women. Hormone therapy helped the women who had moderate to severe hot flashes with their sleep, memory and concentration, anxiety and fears, exhaustion, irritability, swelling, joint and muscle pains, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and general health. For the women with mild or no hot flashes, hormone therapy made no difference.