Female Hormones

Women have twice the frequency of depression as men.

Health Matters
Published on April 14, 2010
Women have twice the frequency of depression as men, and are more vulnerable to many psychiatric disorders between puberty and menopause. Menopause and the post partum are time of high vulnerability for women. Women are more likely to be hospitalized or jailed in the days just before menstruation begins. Transdermal estrogen has been proven in three studies to have antidepressant effects (as opposed to oral estradiol). These facts, and others, beg for our attention to the role of female hormones in mental health. When one adds the concerns raised by the woman’s health initiative study of over 160,000 women on synthetic estrogens, one can easily be left in a state of confusion.

What to do?

First, write down a complete history of your mental health and hormonal events. This means looking at mental health symptoms just before and during puberty, in the days before your period, in response to pregnancy and birth control pills, after any female surgeries, and around menopause. What were your symptoms, did they get better or did some get worse? Include your family history of female (ovarian, uterine, breast) cancers, male cancers (prostate), and cardiovascular disease.

Next if you are still menstruating, track your symptoms and your cycle for three months. Some studies suggest that 50% of women who think they have PMS, do not. Whether that statistic is correct or not, you need to make an accurate correlation.

Finally, work with your doctor to check your FSH, LH, estradiol and progesterone in both the follicular (first 10-12 days) and luteal (days 18-24) parts of your cycle. If you can arrange for continuous salivary monitoring of estradiol and progesterone (less reliable) during that same cycle, you will get a very nice picture of what your hormones are doing in relation to your symptoms. In a simplistic way-estrogen tends to be activating, and progesterone is like the drug Valium-calming in small doses, sedating and depressing in large doses. If you want to be really comprehensive, you can test your genetics (CYP450 1B1 and COMT) and estrogen metabolism to determine whether you can improve your protection against female cancers by eating crucifers, or whether these veggies might increase your risk for making ‘bad’ estrogens.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.