Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - Side effects 

Side effects of HRT 

Reporting side effects

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you are taking.

It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Both hormones used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), oestrogen and progestogen, have side effects.

Side effects usually improve over time, so it's best to try the treatment plan you have been prescribed for at least three months.

If side effects continue after this time, see your GP so your treatment plan can be reviewed.

If side effects persist, your GP may recommend:

  • switching to a different way of taking HRT – for example, changing from a tablet to a patch, or vice versa
  • changing the type of HRT you are taking – for example, a different form of oestrogen or progestogen
  • changing the dose of your HRT

Side effects of oestrogen

Side effects associated with oestrogen include:

  • fluid retention
  • bloating
  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • nausea
  • leg cramps
  • headaches 
  • indigestion 

In some cases, small lifestyle changes can help to relieve side effects. These include:

  • taking your oestrogen dose with food, which may help to reduce nausea and indigestion
  • eating a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, which may reduce breast tenderness
  • regular exercise and stretching, which can help to reduce leg cramps

Side effects of progestogen

Side effects associated with progestogen include:

Weight gain

Many women believe taking HRT will make them put on weight, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

You may gain some weight during the menopause, but this often happens regardless of whether you take HRT or not.

Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet should enable you to lose any unwanted weight.

Page last reviewed: 18/08/2014

Next review due: 18/08/2016


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Delphinia said on 09 September 2013

Hi all I was recommended to go on HRT in the 80s by my GP who never believed in taking drugs was more Homeopathic really, she said after I had a hysterectomy, she said that as long as I took them & went for my breast check ups,I could take them as long as I lived.She would never ever had said that if she did not mean it. I have for many years and changes of Doctors been tried to stop taking them. I have not & had no affect at all. Just wanted to know if many others are in same boat!

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blade52 said on 11 June 2013

I had a hysterectomy when i was 38 ,i then had ovarys removed 2 years ago .I have tryed patches, cream and tablets,i now have 100mcg implant in .
I certainly feel better but have lapses where i feel really unwell , i get really wooshy headed ,but this comes over me in waves,palpatations ,feel lerthagic,fed up ,cant sleep and very offensive smelling armpits ! i have never suffered from this before having hrt.
Is there anybody else out there who is suffering from the same symptoms ?
My next implant isnt due till august

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Bouncy T said on 16 November 2012

I have been on the continuous combined hrt for a month now. I'm experiencing the same type of premenstrual symptoms. Iv started a slight period two days ago. But as my flushes have improved I will try and persevere with the treatment.

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sorandom said on 30 October 2011

I had a total hystorectomy last year and was put on prempak c. I have been suffering terrible headaches progressing into disturbed visions migranes, I have gained weight which upsets me as i have always been small. My skin is dreadful and i feel exhausted all of the time. I am only 38 years of age. I consulted my surgeon who said it was unlikely to be the hrt, but i have only been like this since being on it. Any help? Do you think i need to change my hrt and any suggestions to which one? I exercise all the time but no weight is dropping off.....:(

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bobolina said on 10 October 2011

I have only been taking the combined form of HRT for 27 days but since day 1 I have felt as though I am going to start a period, ie; horrible period cramps and lower back pain. Plus side - the aches and pains in my joints have vanished, I have more energy, the hot flushes have vanished, my sex life has returned ( I was sore and dry - horrible! ) and my skin has plumped out and looks better.
The period pain is horrible though. Nothing touches it - cocodamol etc. I shall be interested to see what happens when I have my 'bleed'.
I'm 57 and had my last period 3 years ago. Sticking with the three month trial as the positives have been well worth the downside of the pain.
Anyone else experienced this? And if so, have you found a painkiller that works???

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