Review on April 13, 2009
Women suffering from depression during or leading up to menopause often link the way in which they are feeling to the physical changes they are going through. Although menopausal depression is certainly recognized, some medical professionals contest the idea that menopause is the direct cause. They argue that it could be brought on by uncomfortable and distressing menopausal symptoms, as well as women experiencing other medical or personal problems during this period of their lives. Although it's interesting, this doesn't really help women suffering from depression at the onset of menopause as it offers no treatment.
Hopefully help is at hand as research carried out by the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts has pointed to medically increased estrogen levels as being the key to the treatment of severe depression. As well as potentially stabilizing estrogen levels within a menopausal woman's body, this treatment could reclaim the lives of those women suffering from very deep depression.
In this research a double-blind study was carried out on 23 women suffering from strong forms of depression. These were women who had not reacted to other treatments for depression. Estrogen was administrated orally for three months so that each patient's experiences of depression could be monitored. As well as this, a placebo pill was given to another 17 women suffering from similar depressive problems.
Researchers found that overall the women taking the estrogen supplements had a great improvement in their depression symptoms, whereas the placebo group had none. The researchers note that excess amounts of estrogen in the body can be dangerous for a women, especially during menopause when her hormone levels are fluctuating rapidly anyway. They note, "The risk-benefit ratio for estrogen therapy of depression in these patients was judged to be favorable. However, periodic endometrial biopsies are required to monitor the endometrial response of women receiving high doses of estrogens."
Although it's not completely conclusive, this research suggests that estrogen may be helpful in the fight against otherwise untreatable menopausal depression, but only when such treatment outweighs the possible ill-effects of increased estrogen amounts within the body.
- John Studd, Consultant gynaecologist, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, 'Depression and the menopause: Oestrogens improve symptoms in some middle aged women', 1997, Myra Hunter, Clinical psychologist, Sub department of Clinical Psychology, University College London.
- 'Estrogen Therapy for Severe Persistent Depressions in Women', Edward L. Klaiber, MD; Donald M. Broverman, PhD; William Vogel, PhD; Yutaka Kobayashi, PhD, Arch Gen Psychiatry.