and affect women with no previous symptoms of depression, according to recent guidelines on perimenopausal depression copublished in the and .
“Epidemiologic findings, animal data, and clinical observations have shed some light into plausible mechanistic hypotheses on why some, but not all, women may be particularly sensitive to changes in the hormonal milieu experienced premenstrually, during the postpartum period or during the menopause transition,”, past president of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her colleagues wrote. “The notion of a menopause-associated depression, however, has been the focus of clinical and scientific debate for years. The lack of consensus on this issue has also led to a lack of clarity in how to evaluate and treat depression in women during the menopausal transition and postmenopausal period.”
The guidelines were developed on behalf of the NAMS Board of Trustees and the Women and Mood Disorders Task Force of the National Network of Depression Centers. Dr. Maki and her colleagues convened an 11-person expert panel on perimenopausal depression, which looked at the effects of factors such as epidemiology; clinical presentation; antidepressants; hormone therapy; and other therapies such as exercise, natural health products, and psychotherapy.
Most women who experience perimenopausal depression have previously undergone a major depressive episode (MDE), while major depressive disorder (MDD) onset at midlife is less common. However, even among women with no previous history of depression, the risk of perimenopausal depression – both depressive symptoms and MDE – is elevated for women at midlife. Studies suggest that 45%-68% of perimenopausal women have elevated depression symptoms.
Dr. Maki and her associates cited studies that showed women who underwent surgical menopause in the form of hysterectomy with and without oophorectomy and women with ovarian insufficiency also showed an elevated rate of depression.
Other risk factors for perimenopausal depression included sociodemographic (black race, financial difficulties) and psychosocial factors (adverse life events, low social support), anxiety, and menopausal symptoms such as interrupted sleep and vasomotor symptoms. Risk factors for MDD include use of antidepressants, premenstrual depressive symptoms, anxiety, menopausal sleep disturbance, sociodemographic factors such as high body mass index and black race, and psychosocial factors such as social isolation and upsetting life events.
Depressive symptoms in perimenopause present as classic depressive symptoms but may also be in combination with perimenopausal symptoms such as changes in weight, cognitive shifts, night sweats, hot flashes, and sexual and sleep disturbances. In addition, the stressors of life for women in midlife can further complicate depressive symptoms.
“Many women face a series of stressors including, but not exclusive to, caring for aging parents, death of parents, medical illness in self and family, adjusting to emotional and physical sequelae of surgical menopause and other health issues that are common to this stage of life, children leaving the home, and changes in marital status. With the onset of childbirth at an increasingly later age, women are often faced with the dual responsibility of raising young children amid caring for aging parents while navigating their careers and ensuing challenges,” Dr. Maki and her colleagues wrote. “These multiple demands are often faced without supports in place to identify or address the ensuing distress placed on a woman during this stage.”
Assessment and diagnosis should include factoring all these symptoms in and disentangling menopausal and psychiatric symptoms, evaluating women with past MDEs and MDD for a mood disorder, and use of differential diagnosis for psychiatric symptoms.
There is no menopause-specific mood disorder scale, Dr. Maki and her associates emphasized, but thecan be used to categorize mood disorder diagnoses. There are “validated menopause symptom and health-related quality of life scales [that] include mood items” such as the , and the
Frontline treatment of MDE with traditional therapies such as antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other psychotherapies is appropriate, while previous antidepressant trial and responses should be followed to find the best efficacy and tolerability for a women with a history of MDD. There is data on some SSRIs and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors suggesting efficacy and tolerability at usual doses. Of note, Dr. Maki and her colleagues found estrogen therapy has some evidence for use as an antidepressant, but most studies on hormone therapy examined unopposed estrogen instead of estrogen plus progestogen, which has limited data.
The authors recommended exercise as a complement to psychotherapy and pharmacotherapies for perimenopausal women with depression, but said there is no available evidence to recommend “botanical or complementary/alternative approaches for treating depression related to the perimenopause.”
Several authors have reported honoraria, research support, consulting fees, and grants from numerous pharmaceutical companies, the National Pregnancy Registry for Atypical Antipsychotics; the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation; the Ontario Brain Institute; and the Ontario Ministry of Technology, Innovation, and Science. Six of the authors reported no relevant conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Maki PM et al. J Womens Health. 2018 Sep 5. .