Women with a Traumatic Experience More Likely To Have Low Sex Hormone

February 1, 2023

Summary: Low sex hormones are a significant problem in postmenopausal women, causing mood swings, poor bone health, and more. A new study shows that women living with psychological trauma are more likely to have low sex hormones due to ovarian dysfunction. However, psychological trauma does not appear to influence FSH levels. Additionally, low hormone levels only occur in sleep-deprived women.

A new study shows that women with traumatic experiences are more likely to have low sex hormone levels. It is especially true for those who do not have a sufficient sleep. These were the findings of the latest study presented at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Atlanta in 2022.

Hormone decline is natural in postmenopausal women. However, this decline is sharper in some women, causing multiple health issues. Health experts are interested in knowing why some women experience a greater decline in sex hormones, causing more severe physical and mental health issues.

There are multiple explanations for this decline. It could be due to genetics, lifestyle choices like diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers are especially interested in preventable or manageable causes of this decline in female sex hormones.

It is not the first study showing an association between hormone levels and post-traumatic stress disorder in women’s health care. However, early studies have shown that PTSD may cause hormonal issues in young women. In addition, many young women experience suppression of ovary function post-PTSD. Therefore, researchers were interested in finding whether PTSD may influence hormone levels in postmenopausal women.

The researchers at the University of Pittsburgh did this new study on women’s health care, focusing on Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. They enrolled 260 postmenopausal women in the study. Further, researchers evaluated their mental health and level of hormones like estrogens and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) related to the treatment of PTSD. Additionally, they also analyzed sleep duration.

They found a few interesting things in their study. First, women with psychological trauma were more likely to have a low estrogen level. However, they did not have a low FSH level. It means that these low hormone levels have more to do with ovarian dysfunction rather than some changes in the brain causing dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.

They also analyzed other confounding factors like stress, anxiety, and depression and found that psychological stress was related to low sex hormones.

However, the most exciting finding was that low sex hormones only occurred in women who slept for fewer than six hours a day. However, psychological trauma did not lead to a significant drop in hormone levels in those with adequate sleep.

This study contributed to already existing knowledge. In addition, it demonstrated the importance of understanding patients’ histories.

Low level of hormones is a significant problem in middle-aged and older women. It causes mood issues and weaker bones and increases the risk of many other health conditions. This is the first study that shows that psychological trauma is associated with even worse outcomes due to ovarian dysfunction and lower hormone levels.

Additionally, this study also highlights the importance of sufficient sleep. It is worth noticing that rest acts as a remedy. Those with adequate sleep can still expect to better hormonal health. The condition is more severe in those with sleep deprivation.

Of course, the study also raises many questions. For example, it raises the question regarding the role of the treatment of sleep disorders in improving hormonal health. Would enhancing sleep quantity and quality help prevent or reverse these health issues?

Though, a few questions still remain unanswered. Nonetheless, the study adds something new to our understanding of the hormonal health of postmenopausal women. Especially considering that not all women may like to go for hormonal replacement therapy. Thus, this study suggests that there might be other ways of improving hormonal health in postmenopausal women.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP