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It's natural to wonder

You all, I am the perfect demographic to believe this. My menstrual-cup-loving, home-birth-having, nature-child self wants this to be true. Oh my gosh, I would so like to be healing myself with nature’s miracles so I deeply understand it will make you sad when I let you know that no, natural hormones are not a thing. And I know this because fortunately (or, unfortunately for this particular fantasy) I’m also a science-nerd midwife who wants to read all the research so I can explain it to my friends and patients.

Here’s what IS a thing. We have hormones that are a pretty good match for what our ovaries make! Estradiol and progesterone for instance (which in scientific studies appear to be safer than other hormones that don’t match what our bodies make). These hormones are made through a process that starts with extract (a sapogenin) from a plant (yam or soybean) and then they go through a multi step chemical process to end up as estradiol hemihydrate (or progesterone or any other steroid hormone including “synthetic” ones).

Anyway, they all started with something from a plant and now they’re medicine. Whether that medicine ends up in your cream from the compounding pharmacy or your FDA approved estradiol patch or your oral tablet, it all started in the same place.

I talk to a lot of people in non-medical settings and when someone tells me their provider has them on the “natural” hormones I worry that their provider is prescribing medicine without understanding it, or worse, willfully deceiving their patients.

PSA: If you’re a provider who thinks natural hormones are a thing, go on the compounding pharmacy supplier websites. See the estradiol hemihydrate? That’s what your pharmacist puts in a compounded estradiol Rx. Now look up the actual ingredients in the FDA approved estradiol patch - yep, that’s estradiol hemihydrate too! Wow! Now go to You Tube and learn about pharmaceutical hormone synthesis, including a 30 minute chemistry lecture about “Marker Degradation” (just so you know, it’s pretty boring, but there is an interesting story in there about a yam theft!) There! Now you know more than whoever told you that compounded hormones “come from plants” because really, they all do, and that’s pretty cool!


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