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Women and Menopause: Prognosis, Prevention and Mental Health Effects

Ann Witt, M.D., and Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD

Prognosis/Prevention:

Menopause cannot be prevented, but not smoking or quitting smoking may delay the age at which menopause starts. Beyond that, a woman can maintain a healthy lifestyle of exercising, decreasing stress, and eating a diet rich in soy to help minimize the impact of symptoms on her life. It is also important to keep in mind that within approximately five years after menopause hot flashes have resolved in 85-90% of women. With the passage of time many women will have some relief.

Impact on Mental Heath:

upset womanMany women experience mood swings during the menopausal transition, but it is unclear if there is an increased rate of depression at the time of menopause. It is also difficult to sort out whether mood changes are actually caused by menopause itself, or by the associated life stressors common in this stage of life such as aging parents, job transitions, children leaving home, and deaths in family or friends.

Some studies have noted that while not all women have mood symptoms, women who seek medical care for their menopausal symptoms (i.e., women who are more severely affected by symptoms) tend to have a higher rate of psychological symptoms. One observation remains certain, that the development of psychological symptoms upon menopause is not inevitable. Plenty of women do not have mood symptoms. However, if you experience mood changes that start to interfere with your daily functioning, or include thoughts of suicide, be sure to raise this issue with your physician. A referral to a mental health practitioner may be warranted.