Side effects of HRT 

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.

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).

Page last reviewed: 18/08/2014

Next review due: 18/08/2016