We all know that hormones can affect our mood, that’s why so many women have fluctuating mood swings during their periods and can develop postnatal depression after giving birth.
While there is no single cause of depression, physical changes and a dramatic drop in oestrogen and progesterone may contribute towards it.
And while all women experience hormone fluctuations throughout their lives, why are some women more susceptible to feeling down than others? Scientists have endeavoured to find out.
Study reveals why some women are more susceptible to depression
A new study was conducted by experts from the North American Menopause Society to see whether there was an association between the amount of time women are exposed to oestrogen – from their first period to the time they go through menopause – and whether they are more likely to feel depressed.
1,300 regularly menstruating and premenopausal women aged between 42-52 were examined as part of the experiment.
The study focused largely on the effect of estradiol, the predominant oestrogen present during the reproductive years. Estradiol modulates serotonin in the brain, a key neurotransmitter in depression.
While fluctuations of estradiol during the menopause transition are universal, the duration of exposure to estradiol throughout the adult years varies widely among women.
The research showed that the longer women are exposed to oestrogen, from when they start their periods to when they hit menopause, the less likely they were to feel depressed.
What’s more, women who used used birth control hormones for a longer period had a decreased risk of depression. However, the number of pregnancies or incidences of breastfeeding had no correlation with depression in the findings.
“Women are more vulnerable to depressive symptoms during and after the menopause transition because of fluctuating hormone changes,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS.
“This study additionally found a higher risk for depression in those with earlier menopause, fewer menstrual cycles over lifespan, or more frequent hot flashes.
“Women and their providers need to recognise 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.”
In conclusion, this study suggests the longer you menstruate the less likely you are to feel and develop depression. However, experts say more research needs to be done into what causes depression.
If you feel depressed or are suffering from depression and or anxiety, we advise you to seek help from your GP or call Lifeline 13 11 14, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia [PANDA] 1300 726 306 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.
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