We’ve all heard them: those horror-ridden stories of menopause-gone-bad — they’re as prevalent as those nightmarish childbirth stories told and retold in hushed tones at baby showers everywhere.
Betty D describes watching her mother’s undoing during midlife: “My mother went crazy, there’s no other way to put it. She wouldn’t get out of bed on some mornings, which wasn’t as bad as when she did get up because her rants, interrupted only by excessive crying jags were worse than just letting stay in her bedroom all day.”
Mandie describes her mother’s descent into menopausal hell as tumultuous at best: “It unnerves me to think I might go through something similar. . .”
But a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry earlier this week sheds a bit more light on which women suffer the most depressive symptoms before and after menopause.
The participants were a group of 203 women who were were in the later stages of their reproductive lives and ultimately reached natural menopause; the research team followed them for 14 years. Exclusion criteria included the following:
- hormone or psychotropic meds taken at the time
- alcohol and/or drug abuse
- major psychiatric episode 12 months prior to the study
- Pregnancy or lactation
The research team discovered that depressive symptoms were greatest during the years before the women experienced their final menstrual period (FMP) – symptoms began to decrease significantly the second year following FMP. This finding coincides with other studies on women and depression in general that reveal that women are more likely to be depressed from age 40-49.
The current study also reveals that a history of depression adds to the likelihood of whether a woman will experience depressive symptoms during the peri- and postmenopausal years. Specifically, women who had been depressed in the past were 13 times more likely to be depressed during perimenopause than those with no history of depression. Additionally, they were 8 times more likely to experience depression after their FMP than non-depressed women.
The good news is that regardless of whether or not a woman has a history of depression prior to menopause, depressive symptoms decrease significantly after experiencing FMP.