It’s well-established that during times of hormonal fluctuation, women may have a tendency to feel more depressed, or anxious. But, according to a recent study, women who are exposed to estrogen for longer periods of time during their reproductive years may have a lower risk of depression.
The main goal of this study was to find how hormones affect overall risk of depression later in life, not just the normal hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the fertility years. Researchers focused their study on Estradiol, the main form of estrogen that is present during the reproductive years. Estradiol affects the serotonin levels in your brain, which is directly involved with depression.
Factors that may increase the time exposed to estradiol include menstruating at a younger age and how many menstrual cycles a woman has over her lifetime. This study of more than 1,300 women found longer exposure to estradiol from the start of menstruation until the onset of menopause caused a significantly reduced risk of depression during, and up to 10 years after menopause. Research also found that women using birth control were associated with a lower risk of depression, and the number of pregnancies or incidences of breastfeeding has no effect.
Estrogen Treatment for Depression
Though the effects of estrogen with regards to emotions are complicated, doctors are still dealing with the fact that estrogen and progesterone clearly affect mood. For many women, they want to know if treating the cause (hormone levels), would be better than treating the symptoms (depression).
One study showed that estrogen, in patch form, helped to treat depression in perimenopausal women. A second, smaller study conducted at UCLA showed similar results, through an open trial.
Risks of Estrogen Treatments
Psychologically speaking, doctors still find that estrogen therapy has its risks. For instance, one team of researchers found that women that suffered from extreme mood symptoms had an increase in symptoms when taking higher dosages of estrogen.
On the physical side, increasing estrogen levels can lead to heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. The risks of estrogen therapy depend on if estrogen is given alone, or as part of a combination therapy, the type of estrogen given, dosage, your current age and your age at menopause. Risks of heart disease and cancer also increase if you have a family history. All of your options should be weighed before considering estrogen therapy.
If you are suffering from signs of depression, contact your medical provider for a consultation to see what path is best for you.Leave a reply →