Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

3-minute read

What is MHT/HRT?

Menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT), formerly called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is when hormones are used to treat the symptoms of menopause, especially hot flushes and night sweats. There are benefits and risks with MHT, so it is important to talk to your doctor if you are considering it.

The main types of MHT are based on hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, that occur naturally in the body.

During menopause, hormone levels go up and down, resulting in symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.

MHT helps restore hormone levels, which may improve some menopause symptoms.

How is MHT/HRT used?

The main hormone used in MHT is oestrogen. In women who have not had a hysterectomy, progesterone needs to be taken at the same time to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer.

Some women benefit from a low-dose testosterone replacement to improve low libido, lack of energy and fatigue.

Other forms of MHT are Tibolone or Duavive tablets.

MHT can be taken as:

  • oral tablets
  • gels or patches (hormones are absorbed through the skin)
  • creams and tablets placed in the vagina
  • a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)

What are the benefits of MHT/HRT?

MHT/HRT is usually helpful if you experience problems with hot flushes and night sweats. Mood, sleep and sex drive problems may also improve. Some women also say they find improvements in joint aches, vaginal dryness and incontinence.

What are the risks of MHT/HRT?

The main risk is that some types of MHT lead to a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer or thrombosis (blood clots in the legs or lungs). However, it can prevent other conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, fractures, diabetes and some types of cancers.

Current international recommendations say that the benefits outweigh the risks in women who are having significant symptoms from menopause, and that MHT is effective and safe for most healthy women.

Some women have side effects such as nausea, fluid retention, bloating, breast tenderness and swelling, and irregular bleeding. These often go away with time.

MHT may not be suitable for you if you have or have had:

  • breast cancer, endometrial cancer or other cancers that are dependent on hormones
  • undiagnosed vaginal bleeding
  • untreated uterine lining thickening
  • raised risk of thrombosis
  • coronary heart disease, stroke or dementia
  • blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • untreated high blood pressure (if you have high blood pressure that is treated, talk to your doctor about MHT)

The risks of MHT depend on your age, the type and dose of hormone therapy you take, duration of treatment, and your medical history.

Talk to your doctor to find out which risks apply to you. If you are unable to take MHT, your doctor may suggest other medications that may be helpful.

How to reduce the risks associated with MHT/HRT?

You can minimise the risks associated with MHT by:

  • taking it for less than 5 years and at the lowest effective dose. Review the dose regularly with your doctor and stop as soon as you don’t need it any more
  • exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and keeping to a healthy weight
  • carefully managing your high blood pressure and diabetes, if these affect you

If you are interested in taking MHT, please talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Hormone replacement therapy -

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), now more commonly known as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), can reduce troublesome menopause symptoms.

Read more on myDr website

The issue with bioidentical hormones — Free health… | Jean Hailes

Claims that bioidentical hormones are safer and more natural than HRT/MHT are misleading and not based on scientific evidence.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe? - Australasian Menopause Society

What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe?

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Maori: What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe? - Australasian Menopause Society

Maori: What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe?

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (HRT) safe? - Australasian Menopause Society

Professor Rod Baber discusses the safety of menopausal hormone therapy (HRT).

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Menopausal hormone therapy - Better Health Channel

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can reduce menopausal symptoms, but the benefits and risks need to be considered carefully.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (HRT)? - Australasian Menopause Society

Professor Susan Davis discusses the basics of menopausal hormone therapy (HRT). The original series is available for download at 

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Menopause experts dismiss some breast cancer claims in… | Jean Hailes

Australian menopause experts are urging women to talk to their doctor about their use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) if they have concerns following…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Menopause management options | Jean Hailes

There are many ways to manage and treat menopausal symptoms, depending on your own unique experience. You might try different options before finding a…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Perimenopause - fact sheet | Jean Hailes

Perimenopause is the lead-up to a woman’s final menstrual period, the menopause.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.