The last frontier of emancipation

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The Independent Online
Up to 2 million women in Britain are estimated to be taking HRT to fend off the hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness associated with the menopause.

Dr Miriam Stoppard, the television presenter and author, said it stopped the "intellectual decay" she experienced at the menopause. Claire Rayner, the agony aunt, took it because of the hot flushes that "drove me potty". The novelist, Fay Weldon, and the Tory MP Teresa Gorman are also advocates of the treatment.

It may be taken as pills, patches attached to the skin, gels or as implants which last six months.

About 50 preparations are on the market, ranging in cost from pounds 3 to pounds 12 a month. HRT is only available on prescription and the cost is borne by the NHS.

The dose of oestrogen , the female hormone contained in HRT, is one- sixth of that contained in the contraceptive pill.

Initial side effects include nausea, breast tenderness and leg cramps.