The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression

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Close monitoring for metabolic changes, such as elevated glucose or lipid profile, as well as monitoring of electrocardiogram for QTC prolongation in some cases should be planned. For psychotic symptoms occurring during the perimenopause, treatment with adjunctive estrogen should also be considered. Both oral and transdermal estrogens have shown to be helpful as adjunctive treatments with antipsychotics in younger women [ , ].

One small study even showed evidence for benefit of a selective estrogen receptor modulator as an addition to an antipsychotic in treating psychotic symptoms [ ]. Treatment of psychotic symptoms with hormone replacement therapy in the postmenopause, however, has demonstrated contradicting results. While hormonal treatment proved beneficial for reducing negative symptoms of schizophrenia when added to an antipsychotic in one study, it did not reduce risk for relapse of illness when used similarly in another study [ , ].

Additionally, findings from the Study of Women Across the Nation SWAN , focusing on a more narrow window of the menopause transition, have shown that women entering menopause failed to improve as much on repeated tests of verbal memory compared to premenopausal women [ ]. It is not entirely clear if women who have cognitive difficulties during the menopause transition are more at risk for cognitive impairment later in life.

Some women do go on to develop mild cognitive impairment, with some objective evidence of decline, and a proportion of these women may develop dementia. Disparities in rates of cognitive disorders between men and women have led to focus on the role of estrogen in neuroprotection. This is supported by evidence from observational studies that treatment with HT during perimenopause decreases later risk for dementia [ , , , ]. Perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women experiencing onset of cognitive difficulties may wish to consider a trial of HT, particularly if there is not contraindication for use and they are experiencing sleep disruption due to night sweats.

Recently, psychostimulant medications used for attention deficit disorder have shown promising effects in treatment of perimenopause onset of executive function difficulties in specific. Caution should be used when prescribing these medications in older adults, due to cardiovascular risks for elevation of blood pressure and heart rate as well as interference with sleep and appetite. Abuse and dependence can also occur with use of psychostimulants, so these should be avoided in patients with a history of substance use disorders.

Preventative strategies for reducing risk for dementia include optimizing management of cardiovascular health, engaging in regular exercise, remaining socially active, and practicing cognitively challenging tasks [ ]. For women with dementia, symptomatic treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptor antagonists can provide some reductions in rate of cognitive decline [ ].

Use of HT, however, for these women would not be recommended. Neuropsychiatric disorders are common among aging women, and factors such as stress exposures, comorbid medical conditions, and the hormonal changes of the perimenopause and postmenopause likely play a significant role in the development or exacerbation of symptoms in women. The relationship between these factors is complex, particularly when considering their individual and combined effects on the aging brain. Stress is associated with sub-optimal health behaviors that can directly undermine brain function but also contributes to risk for chronic medical conditions, neuropsychiatric disorders, and cognitive decline.

The discussion of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders in women has revolved around the reproductive hormones. Estradiol in specific has neuroprotective effects, but in aging women, the benefits of HT, with respect to effects on mood, psychotic symptoms, and cognition, remain a point of debate and investigation.


Changing estradiol levels may adversely affect the stress response in older women. Whether estradiol enhances stress sensitivity in younger menopausal women who are proximal to their final menstrual period is not known, but in premenopausal women, the stress-induced effect of estradiol may be more protective [ 20 ]. Regarding treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in older women, even if changes in hormonal status contribute to risk of symptoms, HT is not necessarily the most effective or safest option.

Why Some Women Are More Likely to Feel Depressed

Psychiatric medications and psychotherapies that target symptomatology often remain the first-line treatment. New research also suggests that psychostimulant treatment for the subset of menopausal women who experience significant executive function complaints may be helpful. Women comprise the majority of individuals living into their ninth and tenth decades; therefore, a continued focus on risks and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in this group is imperative.

Research on the effects of aging on neuropsychiatric conditions has focused primarily on depression and dementia, and an improved understanding of how and why these effects vary by gender is still needed. The fields of geriatric psychiatry and neurology would also benefit significantly from additional investigations regarding the impact of aging on anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and the psychotic disorders, particularly among women.

The aging female population deserves a unique approach for management, with different risk factors for illness and treatment response compared not only with men but also with premenopausal women. Sarah B Mathews has no relevant disclosures to report. This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by the author.

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Your Hormones and You

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Relevance of Stress and Female Sex Hormones for Emotion and Cognition

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  8. A unique central tryptophan hydroxylase isoform. Woolley, C. Roles of estradiol and progesterone in regulation of hippocampal dendritic spine density during the estrous cycle in the rat. You, J. Serotonin transporter and tryptophan hydroxylase gene polymorphisms in Chinese patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Zhang, X. Loss-of-function mutation in tryptophan hydroxylase-2 identified in unipolar major depression.

    Neuron 45, 11— Ziel, H. The implant can also cause a pause in periods — periods will stop for about one in five women, and more than half have bleeding which is light and less frequent. So for example a woman can choose to have a period once every three months only. It is safe, and there is no harm to future fertility in having a break from periods. There are some benefits to stopping periods - less bleeding helps to save iron many women are anaemic because of their periods. Once the contraception is stopped, the body returns to it's normal cycle.

    Having no periods on contraception is a temporary effect which is completely reversible, and makes no difference to future fertility - having no bleeding does not affect the chance of getting pregnant in future. All of the methods are very quickly reversible except the injection - it can take a few months to get periods back again.

    Often swapping to a different method solves the problem e. In women with darker skin, a visible line can develop where the implant is resting. Coils are put into the womb, so cannot be seen. Hormonal contraception is very good at reducing period pain. Lots of women find that their periods are much less painful when they are using hormonal contraception. If there is no ovulation, there is no pain. But the risk of pregnancy becomes higher:. If you're using a hormonal method of contraception, a very small amount of hormone will enter the milk, but this has not been shown to be harmful to breastfed babies.

    Emergency contraception IUD and emergency pills are safe when breastfeeding. If you use the IUD or emergency pill containing levonorgestrel you can continue to breastfeed normally. The combined pill , contraceptive patch and vaginal ring may make it harder for your milk to come in because they contain the hormone estrogen.

    Fertility awareness methods are less reliable while breastfeeding because it is difficult to identify the signs of fertility.

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    You should have 3 normal, regular periods before using fertility awareness methods, and this is unlikely to happen in the first 6 months after giving birth if you are breastfeeding. Chart - Contraceptive choices after having a baby. You can get pregnant as soon as 21 days after having a baby. The contraceptive implant , injection , progestogen-only pill mini pill and condoms can be started immediately after having a baby.

    If they are not fitted within the first 48 hours, fitting should be at least four weeks after giving birth. Emergency oral contraception Emergency pills are safe after having a baby but are not needed until 21 days after birth. The combined pill , contraceptive patch and vaginal ring should not be used in the first 3 weeks after having a baby.

    The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression
    The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression
    The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression
    The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression
    The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Womens Depression

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