What Are the Side Effects of Stopping Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Elite HRT

Written by Elite HRT on April 15, 2021

Medically reviewed by

Camille Frecking, Regulatory Affairs Specialist, MEDICAL ADVISOR

Not everyone will be on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives after they start it. So, when it’s time to stop, you should know what to expect.

It is common to focus on what it is like to start hormone therapy but you really should look at the whole process so you know exactly what you are getting into. 

To determine if stopping hormone replacement is right for you, you should work with your doctor to find the weaning timeline that would be most appropriate, which depends not only on the type of HRT, but also other factors like what other medications you may be taking and how low-dose or high-dose your hormone therapy is. 

Keep reading to learn more about what hormone replacement therapy is, who can help you with hormone replacement therapy, how to start hormone replacement therapy, how to stop hormone replacement therapy, and the side effects that can come along with stopping certain hormone replacement therapies. 

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy is the process of taking hormones when your natural hormone levels are low. 

Hormone replacement therapy can help to reduce symptoms associated with low hormones and help to balance your hormone levels and body functions. 

Hormone replacement therapy can be used for a variety of hormones, most commonly low insulin, estrogen (aka menopausal hormone therapy), testosterone, human growth hormone, and thyroid hormones. Hormone replacement therapy can be used for both men and women.

Hormone replacement therapy comes in different types of applications including topicals like creams, gels, and patches, ingestibles like pill or capsule supplements, injections, and implants. 

Not all hormones come in every form, so your doctor will help you to decide which form is best for you based on the hormone that you are taking. Each application type has its own pros and cons and must be weighed to decide if it fits your lifestyle and needs appropriately.

Who Can Help You With Hormone Replacement Treatment?

There are a number of healthcare professionals that can prescribe and help you to create a hormone replacement treatment plan. Some of these professionals include endocrinologists, OBGYNs, primary care providers, and our very own doctors right here at Elite HRT. When deciding which provider or route to take, ensure that the person you choose has expertise in hormone replacement therapy.

Hormones are a delicate balance in your body and require a comprehensive and personalized approach to get the desired impact. 

Elite HRT specializes in hormone replacement therapy and knows how to take an approach that fits your needs. Because HRT is our main focus, we are up to date on all of the current research and approaches to hormone replacement therapy. 

How to Start Hormone Replacement Therapy

Recognizing you may have a problem is the first step to starting HRT. If you are experiencing unusual symptoms, have a family history of endocrine disorders, or are just curious, you can work with your doctor to get the necessary testing done. 

Blood, urine, and saliva tests can be used to measure hormone levels in the body and determine if hormone replacement therapy is indicated. 

If it is revealed that your hormone levels are low, HRT could help and you can get on the path to creating a treatment plan that is just for you.

You can click here to get started with Elite HRT today

How To Stop Hormone Replacement Therapy

Stopping hormone replacement therapy can be a personal or medical choice that is individualized. How hormones are stopped depends on the patient and the medical provider. Together, you can decide if you would like to stop the therapy all at once or gradually over time. 

There are benefits and negatives to each choice so you must take that into consideration when deciding to stop the therapy. You also have to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks for you to stop hormone replacement therapy altogether. After all, with most therapies, you can elect to move to lower doses if you’re looking to minimize some of the side effects. 

Gradually

Stopping hormones gradually has two components. 

One way is to reduce the dose of hormones that are taken over a longer period of time. For example, the dose will begin to gradually decrease until you stop taking altogether. 

The other option is to increase the amount of time between doses. This way, the body has less of the hormone for a longer amount of time.  

These two methods can be used in conjunction or apart depending on what your healthcare provider thinks is best. Ensure that you are following their instructions closely to make sure your body has an easier time adjusting to the decreased levels of hormones. 

Decreasing hormones gradually is generally more preferred on the part of the patient and the healthcare provider because it allows the body to adjust to the changing levels of hormones instead of having a rapid decline of the hormone level. 

Cold Turkey

Stopping hormones cold turkey is an option but is less preferred than gradually stopping.  Stopping hormones abruptly is when you go from taking hormones regularly to not taking them at all. 

Stopping hormone replacement therapy quickly may seem like the easier choice because you do not have to deal with changing doses or time frames, but it can leave you with side effects from the rapid change in hormone levels.  

When you quit HRT rapidly your body does not have the time to begin producing more of the hormone on its own as it does with gradually decreasing the dose. 

A time when stopping cold turkey is a good idea is when your body is having a severely negative reaction to the hormone that could be potentially dangerous to you and your health.

What Are Potential Side Effects of Stopping Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Estrogen

Many women begin estrogen replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause. When estrogen replacement therapy is stopped it is common for postmenopausal women to continue experiencing the menopausal symptoms they had before from the low levels of estrogen. 

Some of these potential side effects include hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, higher risk of bone fracture, and others. The intensity of the side effects varies between women, so while some may experience intense symptoms of menopause, others may have decreased symptoms than they had prior to beginning the therapy.  Some women even report a decreased quality of life when hormone replacement therapy is stopped. 

Getting off estrogen can also result in estrogen withdrawal, which can have impacts primarily on mood. Luckily, there are some things that can be done to help estrogen withdrawal symptoms including taking antidepressants.

Testosterone

Similar to estrogen, many men use testosterone during the aging process when their levels of testosterone naturally decrease. However, if you decide to stop testosterone replacement therapy, there could be some side effects. 

Testosterone withdrawal can result in muscle pains, joint pains, headaches, feeling tired, not being able to sleep, and anorexia. There are also effects on the brain and mood including labile emotions, irritability, and depression. 

If you experience side effects you should reach out to your health care professional to see if something can be done to help. 

In addition, over time, you may begin to develop the same symptoms that you had previous to starting HRT. Since the levels of hormones are constantly changing in the body, the hormones that you previously took will not remain. 

So, if you previously had issues with low muscle mass, slow hair growth,  and decreased libido, it may be possible that you could experience these side effects again. 

Human Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone is taken by both adults and children with hormone deficiencies. Human growth hormone is essential for the growth and development of all people and to maintain growth as well. 

Growth hormone is not something that is usually taken forever, at least at the same dose.  Since growth rates change over the lifespan, GH is constantly being adjusted.  

When growth hormone is stopped, the growth will likely decrease within a short period of time.  Any other symptoms that were in existence prior to beginning the therapy will likely return such as low muscle development and increased fat stores.  You may also notice insomnia and a decreased metabolic rate and cardiac output. 

This needs to be carefully monitored by your healthcare provider to make sure your body is still performing important daily processes.

Conclusion

Starting and stopping hormone replacement therapy always requires careful consideration. When you begin you should also consider the end as well and what that may look like for you. 

Depending on the hormone you take, the side effects will be different when you stop them.  You should never stop hormones on your own as it can be dangerous and cause potential side effects. 

If you think you would like to stop your hormones you should talk with your doctor to decide how and when it should be done. Also, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of restarting the hormones if you decide that stopping them was not the right choice.

Resources

Doctors Favor Gradually Stopping Hormone Replacement Therapy | BreastCancer.org 

Tapering vs. Cold Turkey: Symptoms vs. Successful Discontinuation of Menopausal Hormone Therapy | National Institutes of Health

Endocrine Withdrawal Syndromes | Endocrine Reviews | Oxford Academic 

Menopause Information, About Menopause | The North American Menopause Society