A new study shows that a shorter menstrual cycle over the lifespan and an early menopause may explain why some women are susceptible to depression. The North American Menopause Society, which has conducted the study, found a significant association between the amount of time that women are exposed to oestrogen and the risk of depression during the transition to menopause and 10 years after menopause.
The longer the exposure to oestrogen, which starts with menarche and ends with menopause, the less risk of depression.
“This study additionally found a higher risk for depression in those with earlier menopause, fewer menstrual cycles over lifespan, or more frequent hot flashes,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS, in a press release.
The study analysed the medical histories of more than 1,300 women. It focused on the effects of estradiol, a predominant estrogen that is present during the reproductive years. Estradiol modulates the availability and metabolism of serotonin which is a key neurotransmitter associated with happiness.
Whereas fluctuations of estradiol during the menopause transition are universal, the duration of exposure to estradiol throughout the adult years varies widely among women, said the study.
The study also found that longer duration of birth control is associated with decreased risk of depression. The number of pregnancies a woman has, and whether she breastfeeds or not had no association with depression.
“Women and their providers need to recognize symptoms of depression such as mood changes, loss of pleasure, changes in weight or sleep, fatigue, feeling worthless, being unable to make decisions, or feeling persistently sad and take appropriate action,” Pinkerton said.