09 Mar Depression during Menopause: New Guidelines
Hot flashes and night sweats are hallmark symptoms of menopause and receive most of the attention because they can be most disruptive to everyday life. Depression as a menopause symptom often goes unnoticed and underrecognized because it can be much more subtle. It is important to know that the menopausal transition is considered a “window of vulnerability” for the development of depressive symptoms. To help you navigate this complex topic, I consolidated the current evidence into bite-sized informational nuggets that are aimed at giving you an overview. Click on the embedded links for more in-depth information.
Here are three important things you should know about depression during menopause:
- The worsening of mood is normal during menopause and on its own is not a sign for concern. This could include feeling sad and not finding as much enjoyment in things. When should you worry? If these feelings start happening daily for at least two weeks, it is a good idea to seek out professional help. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) website has a link where you can find menopause practitioners in your area. The good news about these symptoms is that they will subside as you transition through menopause.
- A small number of women will develop clinical depression. Women with prior history of mood disorders and/or depression are at a much higher risk for developing symptoms of depression during the menopausal transition and into early postmenopause. Also, women that are estrogen-sensitive are at an increased risk. You would be considered estrogen-sensitive if you had mood differences in the last part of the menstrual cycle, post-partum, and/or peri-natal.
- Great news: There’s very strong evidence that physical activity, especially aerobic and intense physical activity can help. A promising smaller study also indicates that even 10 minutes of stretching before bedtime can decrease menopausal and depressive symptoms. Over the past 15 years, an abundance of studies has shown a clear inverse relationship between regular physical activity and depression. The take-home message is that women that exercise more tend to be more positive, have more energy and feel better overall.
NAMS has an excellent video series with lots of menopause-related information. The videos are short and super informative and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in wanting to learn more. The video on mood during menopause can be found here.
Stay curious, unafraid, and armed with knowledge!
– Dr. Maria Luque