Hormone replacement therapy (transgender)

What is hormone replacement therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy, otherwise known as HRT, is a method of treatment in which the patient or individual receives hormones, either as a substitute for naturally existing hormones, or to supplement a lack thereof. HRT is commonly used during the menopause, as androgen replacement therapy, and in transsexual individuals.

Why is hormone replacement therapy used?

In therapies for transgender people, HRT is used in order to introduce the hormone associated with the gender that the individual identifies as. This helps their secondary sex characteristics (e.g pubic hair, Adam’s apple, facial hair, enlarged breasts in women) to align with the gender they identify as. Testosterone is used in transgender men to suppress feminising characteristics, while oestrogen is used in transgender women to suppress masculinising characteristics.

What does hormone replacement therapy involve?

Hormone replacement therapy comes in the form of medication, which must be prescribed by a qualified practitioner. Hormone therapy is shown to be safe, but it has to be supervised by a medical professional. Consulting a doctor before starting therapy determines both eligibility and readiness. Every individual is different, and your doctor will be ready to respond to you and your individual needs

How can you prepare for hormone replacement therapy?

Before undergoing HRT, an individual should arrange an initial consultation with a doctor. They will be able to advise and refer the individual in the correct manner. Hormone replacement therapy is usually the first form of treatment that transgender people experience in their journey, and some find that they do not need to have any further treatment as the hormonal changes are enough. HRT is normally taken as a form of medication, and is often administered orally. It can, however, be administered in the form of an injection, patch, or gel.

Changes may often come about more slowly than expected, which may be frustrating for the individual receiving treatment. If HRT proves to be successful, it will be taken lifelong.

Does hormone replacement therapy carry any risks?

All medication carries the risk of side effects, but not everyone reacts in the same way. The majority of people do not experience any side effects, especially if their overall health is good. Your doctor will help to monitor your health and keep track of your progress, by taking regular blood tests, and possible bone scans.

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