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Is Perimenopause Causing Your Mood Swings, Depression or Anxiety?

November 14, 2019

Perimenopause affects women in their 40s, (sometimes earlier) in different ways. Most women find that they have put on extra weight and it is harder to shift, suffer from loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats and they are waking more frequently at night and have trouble getting back to sleep or their periods are changing – some months are heavier  or your cycle can become more frequent or longer. Some women can have a lighter cycle.

Then there's changes in your vaginal microbiome which can cause, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, vaginitis, vaginosis, higher risk of urinary tract infections, incontinence, prolapses - this is enough to give any woman mood swings, anxiety or depression!

The menopausal vagina is certainly another blog in the making - so watch this space over the next few weeks.

Perimenopausal women who have never had mental health issues, may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression during those months or even years before actual menopause. During this period, for those women with a history of anxiety or depression your symptoms may get worse. A summarised version of what is happening at this time is listed below:-

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety differ by menopausal status in midlife women;
  • Perimenopause is associated with increased risk of greater symptoms of depression;
  • Post menopause is associated with increased risk of greater symptoms of anxiety and;
  • Women without a history of symptoms may be at risk during perimenopause and post menopause.

Why does this happen?

Our hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone are behaving like crazy teenagers! This is why it is thought of this as a second puberty which is very similar to the hormonal fluctuations of our early teenage years.

Oestrogen – the common misconception is that oestrogen is rapidly declining in our 40s but in fact it is fluctuating wildly just like a rollercoaster! Oestrogen soars to levels that can be twice what you had you were younger—only to crash down again to almost nothing and then does it all over again next month. Oh the Joy!

High oestrogen causes breast pain, heavy periods, fluid retention and irritable moods – which affects many women throughout their reproductive years.

When oestrogen crashes, low oestrogen can cause depression, hot flashes and night sweats. Hot flashes are the result of the rollercoaster of high to low oestrogen and can be more prevalent just before menstruation.

Progesterone - In your forties, you may find you don’t cope as well with stress. This happens because losing progesterone during perimenopause can destabilize the HPA axis known as the stress response system. This destabilization can affect our sleep, mood, body temperature, hormones, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and reproductive system.

The recalibration of the nervous system is why perimenopause is associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Progesterone is not just a reproductive hormone as it is also a brain hormone and a nervous system hormone. Lower levels of progesterone can affect our adrenal glands leading to adrenal dysregulation.

Whilst oestrogen is on a rollercoaster ride, progesterone is slowly decreasing although it counterbalances oestrogen – like yin and yang!

  • Progesterone calms your nervous system, while oestrogen stimulates it;
  • Progesterone boosts your thyroid, while oestrogen suppresses it;
  • Progesterone thins your uterine lining, while oestrogen thickens it and finally;
  • Progesterone prevents breast cancer, while oestrogen promotes it.

As a Naturopath I work on reducing or calming the oestrogen rollercoaster whilst supporting your progesterone. Perimenopause can be treated naturally so that you can transition into a healthy menopause and post menopause. It is important to work on our gut health as well due to the connection between hormones, gut health, mental health and our vaginal microbiome.

Repair, Re-balance, Restore

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