Until July 2002, these were the standard treatment for menopausal symptoms. However, the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) and Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) clinical trials illuminated the health risks associated with synthetic hormones, listed below. (Bioidentical hormones, however, were not included in these trials, and do not carry the same risks.)
- Premarin: prepared from pregnant horse urine, these are conjugated estrogens, and they are not biologically identical to those produced in the body – which means they do not follow normal human metabolic pathways. They are associated with vaginal bleeding, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, heart disease, nausea, vomiting, headaches, fluid retention, and they may increase the risk of estrogen receptor positive cancers.
- Progestins: these synthetic progesterone molecules are less effective than bioidentical progesterone, and can cause side effects such as abnormal menses or loss of menses, nausea, depression, weight changes, fluid retention, and insomnia.
- Methyltestosterone: this synthetic analog of testosterone puts added stress on the liver, and is correlated with liver damage and liver cancer. The body does not recognize it, so it is not possible to correlate clinical effects of methyltestosterone with blood levels of testosterone.