Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Mumford: Depressive symptoms in healthy women who don’t have diagnosed clinical depression isn’t related to reproductive hormone levels, like estrogen, or impaired ovulation.
Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?
Dr. Mumford: Earlier research indicates that changes in estrogen may be associated with depression, for instance during the menopausal transition. Our study identified significant associations between estrogen and depressive symptoms in models that didn’t account for confounding factors, but this relationship was completed eliminated when adjustments were made for common confounding factors like age, race, BMI, and also stress level in these premenopausal women. Another interesting finding was that a score describing mood-related menstrual symptoms indicated that such symptoms are highest in the premenstrual phase, but remain lower throughout the rest of women’s cycles. This tells us that altered mood symptoms are most frequent prior to menstruation.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Mumford: In healthy, premenopausal women subclinical depressive symptoms are not significantly related to a woman’s reproductive hormones, like estrogen, or to ovulatory function. But women exhibiting mood-related symptoms tied to their menstrual symptoms may be more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms and possibly would benefit from periodic screening for clinical depression.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Mumford: Further research examining the relationship between depression and reproductive hormones should consider the broader spectrum of depressive symptoms, including women without diagnosed clinical depression. This way, a threshold at which reproductive hormones affect depression or vice versa could be better identified, if such a threshold exists. Also, researchers should be careful to account for confounding variables like race and stress to more accurately disentangle any relationship specifically between hormones and depression.
Depressive symptoms and their relationship with endogenous reproductive hormones and sporadic anovulation in premenopausal women
Annals of Epidemiology Ankita Prasad, B.A., Enrique F. Schisterman, Ph.D., Karen C. Schliep, Ph.D., Katherine A. Ahrens, Ph.D., Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Ph.D., Neil J. Perkins, Ph.D., Rebecca Matyas, B.A., Jean Wactawski-Wende, Ph.D., Sunni L. Mumford, Ph.D.
Received: June 18, 2014; Received in revised form: September 30, 2014; Accepted: October 10, 2014; Published Online: October 14, 2014