Semin Reprod Med 2005; 23(2): 126-140
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-869480
Copyright © 2005 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel: +1(212) 584-4662.

Vaginal Hormone Therapy for Urogenital and Menopausal Symptoms

Susan A. Ballagh1
  • 1Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
25 April 2005 (online)


Reduction of ovarian steroids at menopause leads to significant changes in the urogenital tract. These changes often worsen with time, particularly in nonsmokers, affecting up to 38% of menopausal women. Urogenital symptoms that clearly respond to estrogen therapy include atrophic vaginitis, dryness, and accompanying dyspareunia. Estrogen reduces urinary tract infections in women plagued by frequent recurrence. The sensation of urgency improves with estrogen but urge incontinence improvement is similar to that with placebo. Stress incontinence does not improve with estrogen. Until recently, vaginal therapy was reserved for local symptoms. Rings make systemic vaginal therapy acceptable and even preferred by some users. Vaginal delivery, like other parenteral therapies, bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, with less anticipated impact on lipids, globulins, clotting, and fibrinolytic factors. Evidence of a lowered risk of venous thromboembolism is reviewed. Options for estrogen therapy include native, synthetic, or biologically derived estrogens delivered by cream, gel, insert (pessary), ring, or tablet. Even the lowest dose estradiol (7.5 μg daily or 25 μg twice per week) shows evidence of systemic absorption. In long-term placebo-controlled studies, bone density was better preserved and lipid profiles were more favorable. Therefore, even these low dose therapies should be opposed by occasional progestogen to prevent endometrial carcinoma. Intermittent therapy is best given for a minimum of 12 days based on laboratory data. Less frequent dosing, although preferred by patients, likely confers a slightly increased risk of hyperplasia. No combination estrogen/progestogen vaginal product is currently available. The best dose to reduce risk of endometrial pathology adequately in the lower dose therapies will be defined not only by the dose and potency of the exogenous estrogen but by the individual is body habitus and lifestyle choices.


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Susan Ballagh

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Eastern Virginia Medical School, 601 Colley Avenue

Norfolk, VA 23507