Peri-menopause is a time of changes in a woman’s body and while her hormones are trying to sort out what’s needed and what’s not, so are her emotions. The symptoms of menopause—hot flashes, mood swings, depression—begin as much as a decade before periods end. Many women report that as they approach menopause it’s as if their symptoms of PMS are out of control, including depression. Depression, however, is never “normal,” and should always be treated as a serious issue for which there is help.
The symptoms of depression in menopause are similar to the symptoms of a clinical depression according to WebMD. They include feeling depressed or hopeless for most of the day, every day for at least two weeks, loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy, as well as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Some of these symptoms can be caused by underlying problems with vitamin deficiencies or thyroid disease so it’s essential to have an assessment by your health care provider.
Your health care provider may suggest a low-dose birth control pill to help stabilize your hormones, or an anti-depressant to stabilize your mood, but both of those strategies have side effects that you may find unpleasant. There are several herbs and foods you can try to treat your depression.
According to several studies, including one reported on in Science Daily, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been used in other countries for decades to help depression and there are clinical trials that suggest the efficacy of the herb. St. John’s Wort is available in many different forms, including liquid, pills and as a tea. It is not a treatment that should be tried if you are breastfeeding and does have some side effects including dizziness, dry mouth and nausea. Follow dosing directions on the package carefully and give the herb at least six weeks to work before assessing if it’s working for you.
Sam-E has also been shown to help peri-menopausal depression. It’s widely available at health food stores. This supplement can cause constipation.
B vitamins help the body process the physical manifestations of stress. Folate and vitamin B-6 are particularly helpful.
Omega-3 fish oil has many benefits, and alleviating depression is just one of them. You can increase Omega-3 by adding cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel to your diet, or supplements are widely available.
Yoga, exercise and journaling can all help to alleviate the depression that sometimes comes with peri-menopause. In particular 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day has been shown to alleviate depression. A quick walk in the sunshine will give you a double dose of mood enhancement as sunlight has also been shown to alleviate depression, helping the body to produce serotonin.
If your depression deepens or you have thoughts about suicide seek immediate help from friends or a healthcare provider.