Risk of First-Ever Depression Rises During Perimenopause

DENVER – Women with no history of depression are at sharply increased risk of first-ever, clinically significant depressive symptoms during the menopausal transition, three major prospective longitudinal studies have shown.

It’s a situation that requires clinicians to have their depression-detection radar fully powered up, according to Dr. Nanette F. Santoro.

“A very important thing to remember is that this type of depression is new to these women. This is their first episode. They may come into our offices clearly in distress, but they don’t have the vocabulary to tell you they’re depressed because they don’t know what that feels like,” she said in a plenary lecture at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Santoro presented highlights from the ongoing observational Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), in which 3,302 African American, white, Hispanic, Japanese, and Chinese women at seven U.S. sites have been evaluated annually since their enrollment during 1996-1997 at age 42-52.

“We’re now in our 14th year of SWAN, and we’re still cranking out data,” noted Dr. Santoro, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado, Denver.