Estriol cream is a vaginal cream that contains the female sex hormone estriol, also known as oestriol, which is produced by the ovaries during pregnancy. This kind of cream is most commonly used to treat menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and frequent urinary tract infections. Usually, the cream is either applied topically to the skin of the vagina or inserted into the vagina using an applicator. In some parts of the world, including most European countries, estriol cream is available by prescription, but in other places, for example the United States and Canada, it is not approved for medical use. The proponents of using this cream to treat symptoms of menopause claim that it is a safe medical treatment with few serious side effects, while opponents claim that estriol requires further study and can increase the risk of certain forms of cancer.
Several female sex hormones are referred to as estrogens. The most common so-called natural estrogens are estriol, estradiol and estrone. Natural estrogens are produced by the human body, while synthetic estrogens are manufactured by chemical processes. Some estrogens are also produced by plants or fungi. The estriol used in estriol cream is either synthetic or derived from animal sources, but is chemically identical to the estriol produced by the human body.
In countries where estriol cream is approved for medical use, it is commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve menopausal symptoms. Directions for use can vary, but it is often recommended to apply the cream once per day, usually before bedtime. It is either applied directly to the exterior parts of the vagina or inserted into the vagina with an applicator. After one week of treatment, the cream often only needs to be applied two or three times per week. Side effects are usually mild, but can include vaginal burning and vaginal bleeding.
Estriol is sometimes used in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This is an alternative medical therapy that uses combinations of several female hormones to treat menopausal symptoms. However, some medical experts believe that the safety and benefits of BHRT have been overstated.
Many scientists and medical experts argue that estriol cream is a simple, safe and effective treatment for common menopausal symptoms. Some research also indicates that it can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in menopausal women. Other medical experts argue that estriol needs further scientific study, and that it can increase the risk of uterine cancer and breast cancer. It is not recommended to use estriol cream unless it is prescribed by a physician.