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Antidepressants and the Menopause

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 15 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Menopause Antidepressants Health Women's

Antidepressants may seem like an unusual treatment for menopause but they can provide relief from some of the symptoms of menopause. Women should speak to their doctor about the appropriateness of antidepressants for easing their menopausal challenges. While you likely associate antidepressants with depression treatment, they can also help to reduce hot flushes and mild symptoms of depression and anxiety that may occur as part of your menopausal transition.

Using Antidepressants for Menopause and Women's Health

Generally, lower doses of some of the antidepressant family can help to relieve hot flushes that occur due to the menopausal transition. Antidepressants from the class of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) have shown promise in clinical research studies for relieving hot flushes. Women in the studies found that they experienced significantly fewer hot flushes compared to women in the placebo group – those who received a pill without the active antidepressant ingredient.

While antidepressant therapy is not for every woman, it is considered an effective treatment for women who struggle with hot flushes and choose not to take treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Some women may have risk factors and current health conditions that prevent their use of HRT while others personally choose not to take HRT because they are too concerned about the risks of the treatment.

Still, you should be aware that antidepressants are not considered to be as successful in relieving hot flushes as HRT. Particularly for women who have severe hot flushes, antidepressants may not be effective. However, you can speak to your doctor about the intensity of your hot flushes and you can both discuss which treatment is best for your menopause symptoms.

Side Effects of Antidepressants on Women's Health

Most medications do come with some side effects. However, these effects can ease somewhat as you continue therapy and your body adjusts to the medication. Some women taking antidepressants for hot flushes may notice they experience nausea, weight gain or sexual problems. Given that menopause can bring with it changes to the lining of the vagina as well as increased vaginal dryness, you may find that the sexual dysfunction is intolerable. Others can use vaginal lubricants to increase sexual pleasure although libido may still negatively be impacted by the antidepressant therapy.

Antidepressants and Mood Swings

Generally, antidepressant therapy is not immediately prescribed for the mood swings of menopause. In most women, mood swings will resolve as a woman's hormones balance out and she enters postmenopause. Other women will fare well by reducing sources of stress in their life, which makes them better able to handle their menopausal mood swings.

For women who experience the symptoms of depression, these may occur coincidentally at the same time as their menopausal transition or they may relate to feelings of sadness and grief around the menopausal change of life. Women who are unsuccessful treating depression through other means may be candidates for antidepressant therapy to treat their symptoms of depression.

Making the Right Choice for Menopause Treatment

It is no easy task to find the best treatment or medication for your unique menopause needs. Talk to your doctor about your hot flushes or symptoms of depression during menopause. Together, you can find the best treatment to relieve your menopause symptoms and get you feeling more like yourself again.

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