Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Women and Depression - Learn the Shocking Truth About the Role of Hormones

Women have nearly double the risk of suffering from depression, in comparison to men. Hormones are thought to be the main reason for this large disparity between women and men. In fact, it's been shown that in the twenty-four months surrounding a women's final menstrual period (menses) the risk of onset of depression is fourteen times higher than for the thirty-one years prior.

Deficiencies of progesterone and/or estrogen hormones (or large fluctuations of these hormones) prior to menopause, as well as during pregnancy, after childbirth and throughout a menstrual cycle, may be the cause depression in many women. Let's now discuss progesterone and estrogen, their function in the body, deficiency symptoms and how these hormones are involved in depression.

Progesterone is a female sex hormone that is produced in the ovaries of ovulating women and in the placenta during pregnancy. Its major role is to prepare and maintain the uterus for pregnancy. Progesterone is a key player in the regulation of the menstrual cycle, being low in the first half of the menstrual cycle, and peaking around week three. Progesterone levels during pregnancy rise even further, being twenty times higher than normal levels. It is thought that the feelings of serenity and calmness during pregnancy may be due to the elevated levels of this hormone. Progesterone is known to activate one of the calming chemicals in the brain.

A progesterone deficiency is most frequently experienced as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) type symptoms one or two weeks prior to a menstruation (i.e. bleeding.)

Physical progesterone deficiency symptoms include:

  • water retention

  • breast tenderness

  • acne

  • headaches

  • irregular bleeding

  • heavy painful bleeding

  • miscarriage

  • endometriosis

  • fibroids

In addition to these physical symptoms, many women feel irritable, anxious, nervous, and depressed during the week before their period. Then when they get their period they have that 'ah-ha' moment as they realize that the reason they were having such a bad week, and feeling so terrible and irritable, was due to their hormones - rather than their life.

It is not uncommon to see a progesterone deficiency in young women; some experience problems with their menstrual periods as soon as they get them. They may experience heavy periods, acne, and headaches. Progesterone deficiency symptoms are also commonly experienced by women in the 5 years prior to menopause - those in the peri-menopausal stages (usually age 45-50 but can be as early as 35 years old).

Estrogen is one of the main female sex hormones. It's secreted from the ovaries and is needed for the development of the female reproductive system. Estrogen also regulates the menstrual cycle, plays a role in pregnancy, and is involved in the appearance of female secondary sexual characteristics (for example, breasts.) Less recognized functions of estrogen include its role in fluid and electrolyte balance, bone growth, mood, and memory.

During both peri-menopause and menopause, women can experience symptoms of estrogen deficiency.

Estrogen deficiency symptoms include:

  • hot flashes

  • irregular periods

  • depression

  • vaginal dryness

  • osteoporosis (bone loss)

  • poor memory

Many women who suffer from depression don't recognise the connection between their hormones and their depression. You may benefit from tracking your mood versus your menstrual cycle. Record whether your depression and/or anxiety is worse one week prior to menstruation, or during your menstruation.

Hormonal medications have been found in scientific studies to be effective in treating anxiety and depression. Is it possible that a simple hormonal imbalance is the cause of your depression, and hormone medications the key to healing your depression?

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