It is a well known fact that women transitioning to menopause experience a number of symptoms. One of the possible symptoms some women may experience during this time is depression. But is depression during menopause caused from the change in hormones? Or are there other reasons too?
It is said that women who are undergoing menopause are two to four times more likely to suffer from depression, despite not having any previous history. This would indicate that there is a link between menopause and depression – but does that link result from the hormones or life circumstances too?
Recent studies have shown that women may be able to reduce the risk of depression by undergoing hormone therapy. In one particular study, women approaching the menopause years, otherwise known as perimenopause, were placed into two groups. One group received a transdermal estrogen patch – this patch delivers 0.1 mg of estrogen to each woman. The other group had a placebo patch. Both groups had the patch on for a year. It turned out that 30% of the placebo group developed clinical depression whereas only 17% of the group receiving estrogen developed depression.
The study showed that the treatment worked better with women who were still in early menopause transition or were under a lot of stress. It is important to note that there are certain women for whom this type of treatment wouldn’t be appropriate. This would include women with a family history of breast cancer or a history of blood clots.
By receiving the patch, the estrogen levels are more stabilized so there aren’t those fluctuations between high and low levels which can really affect a woman’s mood.
This study is definitely positive and more studies are taking place to build stronger evidence for hormone treatment, so that women can really receive the help they need during this transition.
Other studies have shown that the link between menopause and depression isn’t just from the change in hormones, but because there are other factors and life circumstances that have an impact at this stage of life too – such as bereavement, divorce, a family history of depression, or role changes that are associated with middle age.
Hormones are still definitely key when it comes to menopause and depression, and mood in general, and while hormone therapy can be a life saver for a lot of women, it would also be useful to explore other preventative and treatment options. Especially considering the fact that not every woman is eligible for hormone therapy and some women are simply reluctant to try it out.
A lot of middle age women practice mindfulness to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Stress is known to make depression that much worse and so it’s important to find methods to reduce stress – whether that is mindfulness, yoga, exercise or taking herbs.
Establishing good sleep patterns also contribute a lot when it comes to combating depression, and of course nutrition and exercise. It might be helpful to consult with a nutritionist to find out which foods you should be avoiding and if there are any vitamins or minerals that could help you. Exercise has always been proven to be a great way to enhance mood. It doesn’t need to be strenuous either, but 10 to 30 minutes a day of physical activity can do wonders for your mood and positivity.