Menopause affects each woman differently. Our biological makeup, social and lifestyle factors can all impact how we experience the symptoms of menopause. However, new research suggests women who have experienced infertility are at higher risk for sleep problems, irritability, and depressive mood during menopause. Here we explore the research, uncover how to spot the signs of depression, and offer tools to help you care for your mental health.
A new study published in Menopause, the journal of the Menopause Society, looked at data from nearly 700 women to determine how having a history of infertility can impact a woman’s experience of menopause symptoms in midlife. The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that women with a history of infertility were more likely to report depressive mood, irritability, and sleep problems during menopause than women who had never experienced infertility. While the cause for the connection isn’t entirely clear, this is not the first time that infertility has been associated with depression. Prior studies have shown that 30% to 60% of women undergoing evaluation for infertility also screened positive for depression.
Other factors such as our hormones, stress, and societal pressures may also contribute to depression in midlife. The hormone estrogen helps stimulate neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which play an important role in mood regulation. When estrogen levels decline during menopause, it may affect the balance of these chemicals. Sadly, the social pressures and stigma around aging can also fuel negative thoughts.
It’s important to be aware of the signs of midlife depression and take action to care for your mental health, especially if you are at increased risk.
Depression can appear differently in every woman, but some of the most common signs include:
First, it’s important to recognize that depression is a serious illness that affects millions of women. While it may seem daunting, asking for help is one of the most empowering things you can do to take care of your mental health.
Your Axia Women’s Health provider can be an excellent resource to help you find the care you need. Your provider can help you explore options including behavioral health counseling and provide a referral to a licensed mental health professional. We work with trusted providers such as those with Linqcare that will offer confidential and convenient counseling options. In some cases, antidepressant medications may also be recommended. Importantly, if you or someone you know is in crisis and having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org to speak with someone immediately.
In addition to talking to your provider, you can support your mental well-being through simple daily actions:
Above all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone! Your friends, family, and Axia Women’s Health provider are here to support you.