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Perimenopausal and Postmenopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy; Part 1. An Update of the Literature on Benefits and Risks


  • Ronnie Lichtman CNM, MS, MPHIL

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Ronnie Lichtman is director of the Nurse-Midwifery Educational Program at the Columbia University School of Nursing. She also has a private practice, largely devoted to well-woman gynecology. She is co-editor of Gynecology: Well-Woman Care (Norwalk [CT]: Appleton & Lange, 1990) and has worked as a midwife at North Central Bronx Hospital, Harlem Hospital, and the Maternal and Infant Care/Family Planning Project of New York. She is also a curriculum consultant to the Pathways to Midwifery Program at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

  • Part II is scheduled to follow in the May/June 1996 issue of JNM.

Address correspondence to Ronnie Lichtman, CNM, MS, MPhil, Columbia University School of Nursing, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.


As life expectancy increases and members of the postwar generation settle into their fifth decade of life, hormone replacement therapy—estrogen or an estrogen-progestin combination—has become a major research interest. An extensive, but often confusing and even contradictory, literature exists on the uses of hormone replacement for the treatment and prevention of a multitude of difficulties that may be associated with the perimenopausal and postmenopausal periods. These include hot flushes, vaginal changes, urinary tract changes, changes in sexuality, affective or emotional symptoms, changes in the oral mucosa and skin, loss of memory and Alzheimer's disease, bone loss and osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. This article reviews the literature in each of these areas. It also reviews studies relating to possible side effects of hormone therapy, including endometrial cancer, gall bladder disease, and breast cancer. The article outlines principles for practitioners to follow in assisting women to make informed and individualized decisions about this therapy. Part II of this article, which will appear in the May/June 1996 issue of the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, will cover specific therapeutic regimens and their management, as well as alternative therapies and preventive measures.