Bioidentical hormones are made in the laboratory and are based on compounds found in plants (usually soybeans or wild yams).
After the plant-based hormone is processed, its structure is said to be identical to the estrogen, progesterone, or androgen hormone your body produces. (Well-designed studies have yet to prove this theory.1) A compounding pharmacist can offer you a custom-made formulation in one of many forms, such as a capsule, skin cream or gel, tablet to dissolve under your tongue, suppository, or nose spray. Some commonly prescribed estrogens and progesterones are bioidenticals, such as Estrace (estradiol). A major difference between custom-made formulations and commercial products is that commercial products are regulated and tested for purity and potency and compounding pharmacies are not.2
Just like synthetic hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones are prescribed to increase or stabilize a woman's hormone levels. This is generally done during perimenopause, when hormone levels change unpredictably, and after menopause, when the hormones drop to low levels.
The most important fact to remember about taking bioidentical HT is that its risks are not yet well understood. It may have the same breast cancer, stroke, blood clot, heart disease, and dementia risks that synthetic HT has.1
- North American Menopause Society (2010). Estrogen and progestogen use in postmenopausal women: 2010 position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 17(2): 242–255. Also available online: http://www.menopause.org/PSht10.pdf.
- Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Postmenopausal hormone therapy. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 749–857. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine|
|Last Revised||April 26, 2012|
Last Revised: April 26, 2012
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