Womens Reproductive Conditions and Depression
Women are twice as likely to experience bouts of major depression and dysthymia (chronic depression) as men. There are no certain reasons for this difference in depression rates between men and women, but research does show that women have certain medical conditions that are specific to them that may contribute to their higher rate of depression.
A woman’s monthly reproductive cycle and its symptoms brought about by hormonal changes along with other disorders of the reproductive organs can lead to depression and its symptoms.
The monthly menstrual cycle brings physical and behavioral changes to many women that are related to the fluctuation of the many hormones that regulate the reproductive cycle. Called premenstrual syndrome (PMS), for many women these hormonal changes can bring about wide mood swings including depression and irritability.
While medical researchers are not completely sure of the cause of PMS they are studying the way the cyclical change in a woman’s hormones affects the brains chemistry. It is believed that these hormonal changes are responsible for many of the depressive symptoms women experience.
Endometriosis is a disease specific to women that if left untreated can lead to depression. Endometriosis strikes 10% to 20% of American women during their child bearing years and occurs when the endometrial tissue that is usually found in the uterus grows outside the uterus on the internal organs in the abdomen. Endometriosis includes a whole list of symptoms including pelvic tenderness and pain, chronic fatigue, heavy periods, infertility, digestive tract problems and pain, and miscarriages.
Women with endometriosis are highly susceptible to depression because of the constant pain and discomfort this disease brings. Finding a treatment that works can be time consuming and frustrating and many times the treatment itself can cause depression.
Menopause is another uniquely female condition that can lead to depression. As women approach midlife the signs of menopause begin to appear. A woman’s menstrual cycle begins to change and become unpredictable signifying changes in hormone levels that can cause mood swings, hot flashes and memory loss. Women going through menopause begin to feel that they are loosing control of their bodies and their life which can be a precursor to depression.
Postpartum depression is another form of depression specific to women. It occurs after a woman gives birth and her hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy levels. This drop in hormone levels affects a woman’s mood much like the hormone changes during her monthly menstrual cycle. For some women this change in hormones along with the responsibility of a new baby can be difficult to deal with.
It should be noted that many women do not become depressed because of these reproductive events and live rather normal lives. Research has shown that those women most susceptible to depression from these reproductive centered conditions have had episodes of depression previously and are more likely to suffer from depression than women who do not have a past history of depression. It is important that you talk to your doctor if you feel you are experiencing any depression symptoms related to any of these conditions. They can provide medication and recommendations to help you cope.