Causes of depression in women – 3: Biological and hormonal factors

Causes of depression in women – 3: Biological and hormonal factors

Depression is among the major contributors to disease-related disability in women across the world. With almost two-time greater risk than men, the global annual prevalence of major depression in women was 5.5 percent in 2010 against 3.2 percent in men, representing a 1.7-fold increased incidence.

In addition to common social and environmental factors that are known to cause depression, some gender-specific biological and hormonal factors are unique to women. These factors include menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the postpartum period, and perimenopause. However, it is important to note that depression does not affect all women the same way. It is not necessary that every woman who is having depression develops every symptom. While some may experience only a few symptoms, others may have multiple symptoms.

Here are the biological and hormonal factors causing depression in women:

Premenstrual syndrome: Hormonal imbalances associated with menstrual cycle can make women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) including fatigue, bloating, irritability and emotional reactivity. While PMS has been reported to be mild for some women, some may experience more severe and disabling symptoms.

Pregnancy and infertility: Women can experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy due to the underlying hormonal changes. Studies suggest a 16 percent prevalence of symptomatic depression during pregnancy while five percent of women may experience major depression. In addition to antenatal depression, other pregnancy-related issues such as miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy and infertility can also cause depression.

Postpartum depression: It is common for a new mom to experience baby blues, which may include feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and fatigue. These feelings are generally caused due to a quick drop in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels in women post childbirth, thereby leading to chemical changes in brain and triggering mood swings. Physical discomfort and exhaustion due to constant sleep deprivation may also contribute to postpartum depressive symptoms. In most cases, the symptoms subside within a few weeks; however, some women may continue to experience severe depression, a condition referred to as postpartum depression.

Perimenopause and menopause: Perimenopause or menopause transition bothers nearly 1.5 million women each year with troublesome symptoms including vaginal dryness, insomnia, fatigue and joint pain. A predecessor to menopause, perimenopause is a stage when reproductive hormones rapidly fluctuate. Though all women entering menopause are four times at risk of developing depression, women with histories of depression have greater risk of experiencing it during menopause.

Other health problems: In addition to above mentioned factors, chronic illness, disability, substance abuse, injury or some kind of disability can lead to depression in women. Considering the role of biological and hormonal fluctuations in affecting depression in women, it may be helpful to follow some coping strategies, especially during the time when hormone levels are low. Keeping a log of how body responds to menstrual cycle physically and emotionally can be an effective strategy to manage the woes.

Treating depression in women

The treatment of depression may vary from one woman to another, depending on temperament, biology, and individual differences in life experience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to address the root cause of the problem. The efficacy of a combination of medication (antidepressants) and psychotherapy along with support from loved ones is one of the ideal approaches. In addition, group, family, or couple therapy may also be clubbed with other treatment options to relieve depression.

For women battling depression, early diagnosis and subsequent treatment are key to quick recovery. People looking for depression disorders centers in Texas can contact the Texas Depression Treatment Help for information. You can call our 24/7 helpline 866-827-0282 or get in touch with our expert via online chat.

Read the other articles of the series “Causes of depression in women:”

  1. Genes
  2. Psychological reasons