Bioidentical hormones are made in a laboratory. They 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 makes. (Well-designed studies have yet to prove this theory.footnote 1) A compounding pharmacist can offer you a custom-made formulation in one of many forms. You might get a capsule, a skin cream or gel, a tablet to dissolve under your tongue, a suppository, or a nose spray. Some commonly prescribed estrogens and progesterones are bioidenticals, such as Estrace (estradiol). There's a major difference between custom-made formulations and commercial products. Commercial products are regulated and tested for purity and potency, but compounding pharmacies are not.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada does not support the use of custom-compounded bioidenticals.footnote 2
Just like synthetic hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones are prescribed to increase or stabilize a woman's hormone levels. This is most often done during perimenopause, when hormone levels change unpredictably. It's also done after menopause, when the hormones drop to low levels.
The most important fact to remember about taking bioidentical hormones is that the risks are not yet well understood. They may have the same breast cancer, stroke, blood clot, heart disease, and dementia risks that synthetic hormone therapy has.footnote 1
- North American Menopause Society (2012). The 2012 hormone therapy position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 19(3): 257–271. DOI: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31824b970a. Accessed April 18, 2016.
- Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (2010). Hormone therapy products available in Canada for treatment of menopausal symptoms: Physician desk reference. Available online: http://menopauseandu.ca/resources/HTbookletE.pdf.
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Current as ofOctober 6, 2017
Current as of: October 6, 2017