One of the less talked about aspects of women’s health is the stressful transition menopause which comes with a number of physical and mental health challenges. The perimenopausal journey for a woman can bring many surprises in the form of hot flashes, insomnia, night restlessness to vaginal dryness, irregular periods and mood swings. Menopause can also double depression risk in women and although this phase might be temporary, it can be very distressing for the person going through it. However, with the support of medical professionals, loved ones, and self-care measures, a person can easily overcome this crucial phase. (Read also: How to manage body weight and metabolic changes during menopause)
“Menopause has received a lot of attention in recent years as more and more working women have begun to talk about how they cope with the difficulties this natural phase of life brings. Menopause-related symptoms often cause problems for women in the workplace, perhaps even requiring them to take longer breaks at work. to their work, hindering not only their well-being and sense of self-confidence, but also their professional progress and disrupting the corporate balance. Menopause does not make a woman less competent. It is therefore not a choice, but a necessity, a duty for all organizations to recognize the need to support women during this internship by establishing an environment that values and respects their well-being, one in which they can thrive,” says Jigna Patel, Chief Technical and Operations Officer, British Safety Council.
How menopause can cause depression
“The journey through menopause can bring a multitude of changes to a woman’s body, but what is often overlooked is its impact on mental health. The years leading up to menopause and the transition itself can be a challenging time, not only physically but emotionally. One significant cause for concern is an increase in the incidence of depression during this period. Studies have shown that the risk of depression doubles during menopause. This is particularly important for women who have a history of depression or anxiety, as they may experience a recurrence of symptoms,” says Dr. Gandhali Deorukhkar, obstetrician and Gynecologist at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central.
A 2019 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that fluctuations in two hormones, progesterone and estradiol (the strongest form of estrogen), during perimenopause are associated with an increase in depressive symptoms. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that women are more prone to panic attacks during and after menopause, which can manifest with symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating and feeling hot—similar to hot flashes.
“What’s more, the physical changes that come with menopause can worsen mood swings. Conditions like an overactive thyroid, which becomes more common with age, can trigger anxiety. Sleep disturbances, often caused by hormonal changes that lead to nighttime hot flashes, can also contribute to anxiety and depression. “, says Dr. Gandhali.
“The impact of menopause on mental health has long been the subject of debate and research. While it is important to recognize that not all women experience the same symptoms during this stage of life, there are indeed several ways in which menopause can affect mental health – a common challenge faced by women in menopause, sleep disturbances occur. Difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, and nocturnal vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes can disrupt sleep patterns. These disturbances can lead to fatigue, irritability, and a general decline in quality of life. Although it is true that these sleep problems can be attributed to menopausal changes, they are not solely responsible for mental health changes,” says Dr Spenta Sumondy, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai.
“Depression is another concern during menopause, but it is important to understand that it is influenced by a variety of factors. While fluctuations in reproductive hormone levels can contribute to mood symptoms, other factors such as weight, smoking and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during the reproductive years also play a significant role. role,” says Dr. Sumondy.
How women should take care of their mental health during menopause
“So what can women do to protect their mental health during menopause? First, it’s important to recognize that mood swings can accompany other menopausal symptoms. Monitoring mood patterns along with sleep and stress levels is key. Seeking professional help is recommended if symptoms become severe and interfere with daily life,” says Dr. Deorukhkar.
“Lifestyle adjustments can also be very helpful. Regular exercise, prioritizing adequate sleep, and practicing stress management techniques can help alleviate potential symptoms. Importantly, reaching out to friends, family, or support groups can provide invaluable emotional support during this challenging time.” , adds Dr. Deorukhkar.
“Running comprehensive women’s wellness programs so that women can learn about what is happening to them and strategies for coping with physical, mental and emotional symptoms during this period can be extremely effective. Provide access to counseling services, support groups and symptom management workshops, stress reduction and overall well-being. Integrating these programs not only supports women during menopause, but also promotes a healthier workforce and improves employee productivity and job satisfaction. Fostering an inclusive and compassionate community is key. Women can voice their concerns and seek the help they need needed by giving them forums for discourse, open but discreet channels of contact and a non-judgmental environment. Managers and co-workers should be trained to recognize and respectfully address the difficulties women face now,” says Jigna Patel.
“Indian workplaces need to understand how critical it is to support women during the menopause transition. By adopting menopause-friendly practices, companies demonstrate their commitment to gender equality, diversity and employee well-being. Organizations can retain hard-working, skilled and competent people, increase diversity and improve overall well-being its workforce by fostering a more stimulating environment,” adds Patel.
“It is worth noting that estrogen therapy may provide relief for some women who experience mood and vasomotor symptoms. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown promise in reducing insomnia associated with vasomotor symptoms, ultimately improving sleep quality and mental well-being. While menopause can indeed impact on mental health, it is critical to recognize that the relationship between menopause and mental health is complex. Many of the reported symptoms are influenced by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, lifestyle choices, and pre-existing conditions. Understanding these nuances can help women navigate this life stage with a focus on physical and mental well-being,” says Dr. Sumondy.
“It’s important to remember that the mood swings experienced during the menopause transition are usually temporary. Although they can be challenging, knowing that they won’t last forever can offer comfort and hope. Menopause is a significant life transition, and with the right strategies and support, women can manage in doing so while maintaining their mental well-being,” concludes Dr. Deorukhkar.