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A woman’s risk of depression increases during the transition to menopause. Being aware that depression is more common during this time, can help women to identify early symptoms and take actions to help treat the condition. Women should talk with their doctor about screening for mood symptoms and hormone levels at regular office visits. One of these screenings should also include a test for hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland stops making a sufficient amount of thyroid hormones. Depression is often a symptom of hypothyroidism. Treating with medication can help to elevate those levels and improve or completely get rid of symptoms, including depression.

If left untreated, depression can cause many physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms. Physical symptoms include: headaches, fatigue, back pain, digestive problems, sleeping problems, and change in appetite or weight. Behavioral symptoms of depression can include: unable to concentrate, not getting things done at work, withdrawing from close family and friends, and relying on alcohol and other drugs. Emotional symptoms include persistent sadness, indecisiveness, feeling overwhelmed, irritable, frustrated, and lack of confidence. Depression can also lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Depression and Hypothyroidism share many of the same symptoms. If you have hypothyroidism you might experience fatigue, sluggishness, trouble concentrating and sleep too much. Other symptoms of low thyroid include: slow heart rate, sensitivity to cold, constipation, brittle nails, hair thinning or loss, and menstrual period changes. Studies show that if you have both hypothyroidism and depression, thyroid medications may work better than antidepressants.

Another study also supports that hormone therapy might help with perimenopausal depression. In this study, researchers found that perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women who were treated with hormones, were less likely to experience symptoms of depression. This study, which ran from October 2010 to February 2016, included 172 women aged 45-65 experiencing low-level symptoms of depression. Approximately half of the women used a skin patch containing estradiol for 12 months in addition to intermittent oral progesterone pills. The remaining of the women received a fake patch and placebo pills. At the conclusion of the study, 17% of the women in the hormone group developed clinical depression, compared to 32% of those who were in the placebo group. This doesn’t mean that hormone therapy should be widely utilized for the prevention and treatment of depression, however it does bring light to the importance of keeping hormones balanced during this phase in a woman’s life.

Key Points:

  • Be aware of the depression risk during perimenopause and early postmenopause.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of hormone therapy. Talk to your doctor about potential benefits and risks.
  • Consider making lifestyle changes. Non-drug treatments can also be used to reduce the onset of depressive symptoms. This includes managing stress and increasing physical activity.

If you feel depressed, please see a doctor. Both depression and hormone imbalance are treatable. For a complete hormone blood panel test and to consult with hormone replacement medical professionals, make an appointment with your closest Blue Sky MD location today.