Which Hormone Replacement Therapy is Safer: Patches or Pills?

Skin patches may be a better option than tablets if taking a tablet every day is uncomfortable for you. The use of patches can also help avoid some side effects of hormone therapy, such as indigestion, and, unlike tablets, they do not increase the risk of blood clots forming. Researchers believe that hormone patches may be less risky than pills because of the way they work. Unlike oral hormones, hormones that are administered through a skin patch prevent the passage of the liver and may not stimulate proteins that promote blood clots.

For women with an intact uterus, the preferred treatment is classic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that uses a combination of estradiol and progestin over a period of 5 years. Because of the risks, it is recommended that they use HRT at the lowest dose and for the shortest possible time. And it's becoming the new standard when it comes to reviewing HRT options and deciding which HRT method (if any) is right for you.

However, that particular side effect is already considered rare, and the increased risk associated with clot formation when taking hormone pills was only minimally greater (15% or less) than the risk of VTE with patches or without any HRT.

One reason could be that the hormones in the creams and patches are all bioidentical and another is that the liver is not overlooked, which is called the first step, which means that the hormones gradually end up in the liver for excretion and the dose of the hormone is much lower.

Studies conducted in the past with high doses of estradiol and progestins ended badly and HRT was in the background for many years. It's made of E2 and studies show that E3 has a lot of positive effects and, therefore, may be the safest option for HRT. In recent studies, women who use hormone replacement therapy in pill form are more likely to have serious blood clots (venous thromboembolism, or VTE), as the liver processes oral pills and this increases the risk of clots forming. In Europe, the estrogens used in HRT are mostly bioidentical to the estradiol and estriol produced by the body.

The transdermal route is relatively new and is usually available in the form of patches, gels, creams or aerosols that are applied directly to the skin, where the active bioidentical hormone is absorbed locally and passes into the circulation. Currently, one of the biggest debates is whether patches or pills are the safest option, with the least amount of harmful side effects. Previous studies have shown that women who use hormonal patches have a lower risk of forming blood clots than women who take oral hormone therapy that contains estrogen and progesterone. The study, involving 54,000 women who used HRT, found that those who used estrogen patches were one-third less likely to develop blood clots in the legs or lungs. Along with previous studies, the new findings suggest that, for women who want to try hormones to relieve hot flashes, patches could be a safer alternative.

The ability to adjust a woman's hormones manually using HRT is very new to the larger scheme of human existence. Until then, HRT had been prescribed to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis, something that experts now advise against.