Our expert says:
Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in Male to Female (MTF) Transsexuals
1. Things that can happen when on HRT.
This is a list of things that could happen to your body when you are on HRT. This does not mean that all of these effects will be experienced by all people on HRT. Each person’s body will react differently to HRT. This list is just a guide as to what you could expect.
1.1. Breast growth
You will start to develop breasts after a few weeks of hormones, depending on the dosage and how your body reacts to the hormones. The first most common sign of the start of breast growth will be a sensitivity of the nipple area and even possibly some lactation. The size and speed of breast growth will vary for each individual. The final breast size will only be known after ± 3 to 4 years of HRT.
1.2. Body hair loss
The hair on your body will begin to get finer and softer and may in some circumstances even reduce in volume.
1.3. Mood swings
Due to the chemical changes in the brain caused by the hormones you may experience varying levels of mood changes. These could be from mild to very severe, depending on your body makeup. Some individuals may experience mild to severe depression. You may experience increased emotional responses to every day events and activities.
1.4. Water retention
Higher levels of oestrogen in the body very often lead to water retention. This could result in weight gain and other symptoms like the swelling of the ankles.
1.5. Redistribution of body fat
The distribution of fat in a male and female body is quite different. First of all your breast will grow which is largely made up of fatty tissue. Any excess weight on the waist will redistribute to the hips. If you do not have excess weight on the waist the hips will begin to pick up fat. The buttocks may also begin to become fatter. The thighs may also become fatter. Muscle tone will diminish unless you become or remain very active in some form of sport or exercise routine. You will not be able to build muscle due to the reduction in testosterone.
1.6. Increased risk of cardiovascular conditions
Oestrogen may result in the development of blood clots and this could result in or dramatically increase the chances of a heart attack or stroke. It is very important to only take HRT under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner who can monitor your body’s reactions to the hormones.
1.7. Risk of developing Breast Cancer
There is a real risk of developing breast cancer. It is not uncommon for MTFs to develop breast cancer and you should ensure that you have a mammogram at the prescribed intervals as you begin to mature. Early detection is always the best way to prevent debilitating consequences.
2. What will not happen when on HRT.
This is a list of things that HRT will have no effect on.
2.1. Adams apple
If you have an Adams apple you will not lose it by taking hormones. It is a piece of cartilage that develops as you voice begins to deepen when go into puberty as a male. The only way to reduce it is surgically.
2.2. Beard growth
Taking hormones has very little if not no effect on hair growth on the face. If you take a Testosterone blocker you may find that the hair begins to lighten in colour but it will not reduce in volume and thickness. There are various means of getting rid of unwanted facial hair.
2.2.1. Electrolysis is one of the older methods of hair removal and can be very time consuming and is quite painful.
2.2.2. Laser Hair Removal is the more commonly used method of hair removal these days. It is less painful and more hairs are treated per session than can be done with Electrolysis. However, if you have blond, grey or very light colour facial hair the laser hair removal will not remove those hairs as it only works on dark hairs and you may have to go for electrolysis as well.
2.2.3. Waxing is also an option but you need to let the hair grow out before the waxing can be done. And you will have to go back regularly for most of the rest of your life. Waxing does have a tendency to soften the hairs and they do become thinner and less dense over time.
2.2.4. Tweezing/plucking can also be done but this is a very time consuming activity and also does not get rid of all the hairs. The hair also needs to be allowed to grow before the hairs can be grasped in the tweezers. This will over time have the same effect as waxing and will also have to be done for most of the rest of your life.
2.2.5. Finally, shaving is an option to use when you first start to transition, however you will not be able to maintain this activity if you chose to go stealth and get into a relationship. Very few men will want a woman that has to share their razor to shave their faces or women want a woman who has to shave her face.
2.3. Voice pitch
The pitch of your voice will not increase as a result of taking hormones. If your voice has already broken as a result of puberty it cannot be changed by hormones. The size of the voice box will not reduce. There are surgical procedures for reducing the size of the voice box and therefore changing the pitch of your voice but these procedures are very risky and you could end up losing your voice completely. The only way to effectively alter your voice is through speech therapy.
2.4. Bone structure
Your bone structure will not change when you start to take hormones. The only effect that the hormones will have is to change the distribution of fat in your body and this may result in a change in your external appearance. Your body will begin to feminise and the more angular features of the male form will become more rounded. If however you have a strong masculine jaw line and other bone structures, this will not change. The only way to alter these features would be through cosmetic surgery.
This list is not extensive but it does cover the most common effects.
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal
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