Sensitivity of Reproductive Hormones Related to Risk for Depression in Women

Studies, particularly in epidemiologic studies, suggest that the sensitivity of women’s reproductive hormones is closely related to the risk of depression. This means that women are more prone to becoming depressed throughout their entire reproductive life cycles due to hormonal fluctuations. The specific events that occur within the reproductive life cycle include the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and all stages of menopause, namely perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause.

A research was conducted by the National Comorbidity Survey, otherwise known as the NCS, which pointed out that men who are susceptible to depression disorders remained at only 12.7%, while women rose to 21.3%. The survey was done by individuals between the ages of 15 years and 54 years old.

Physiologically speaking, the risk of depression could possibly be caused by the effects of post menstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhea, or other occurrences of hormonal fluctuations and imbalances. These fluctuations are observed to be able to influence the neurochemical pathways that are related to depression.

Specifically, estrogen and progesterone have been seen to affect regions of the brain that are responsible for modulating mood and behavioral patterns. These hormones go to receptor sites in the brain, which are identified as the prefrontal cortex, the thalamus, hippocampus, and the brain stem.

However, mentally, emotionally, and socially speaking, the instability brought on by these reproductive life events such as childbirth and puberty is not only physiologically causing depression. Besides physiologically affecting neurochemical pathways, depression is also caused by mental and emotional stress related to social issues during reproductive life events.

For example, childbirth may induce high levels of stress because of multiple factors, such as the responsibilities of raising the baby, difficulties in financial issues, problems relating to lower income, and even complications in the hospital or anything medically related. These factors, along with possible past traumas, social pressures, sexual issues, and even divorce or the death of a family member are enough to weigh down on any woman, which, if collectively mounted atop each unfortunate circumstance, will eventually be enough to push the woman to develop major depression disorder, or MDD.

Bipolar disorder is also a possibility that could occur within two scenarios— either it is developed from depression of reproductive live events, or it could branch out from itself and eventually lead to depression. In any case, women should have access to treatment for any signs of feelings of instability during life events relating to their reproductive systems.

Leave a Comment