Menopause is not a disease but a natural biological process that marks the end of menstruation and fertility in women. Even though it is a natural course of a woman’s life cycle, menopause causes physical and psychological symptoms that can disturb your sleep, drain your energy and evoke feelings of sadness. A variety of treatments have traditionally been available, including lifestyle changes and hormone therapy. The potential problems associated with taking hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms have led to the search for non-hormonal treatment options. Antidepressant medicines, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs such as sertraline, may be effective for treating some symptoms of menopause.
Menopause occurs as a result of a natural decline for several years in your body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that control menstruation. By your late 40s or early 50s, your ovaries stop producing eggs and you stop menstruating. These hormonal changes may cause some unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and difficulty sleeping. Menopause can also increase your risk for certain health problems. When your estrogen levels go down in menopause, you have an increased risk of heart disease. Menopause also causes your bones to become weaker and increases your risk of hip, wrist and spine fractures. You may also suffer from stress incontinence -- urine leakage when you cough, laugh or lift. Some of these symptoms may require treatment. Options include regular exercise, smoking cessation, acupuncture and hormonal replacement therapy medicines. Consult your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
Sertraline For Menopause
Sertraline, sold under the brand name Zoloft, is an antidepressant medicine that affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause symptoms of depression, panic or anxiety. Preliminary scientific research has shown that sertraline may also have benefits in treating symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. A recent study published in the journal “Climacteric” in 2011 demonstrated that sertraline was more effective than placebo, or sugar pills, in treating both the physical and psychological symptoms of menopause. Another study published in the journal “Menopause” in 2006 showed that sertraline decreased the number of hot flashes and reduced their severity as compared to placebo. Other research published in “Menopause” in 2007 also supported the beneficial effects of sertraline for treating hot flashes. These studies suggest that sertraline may be a suitable option for some women to treat menopausal symptoms. However, more research is needed to confirm these results.
Sertraline And HRT
Some women take hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, to relieve menopausal symptoms and to possibly protect against osteoporosis. However, HRT may increase your risk of serious health problems, such as breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. If you decide to take HRT, it should be at a low dose and be re-evaluated every six months, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some preliminary research has shown that HRT may have benefits when taken with sertraline for treating symptoms of depression after menopause. A study published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research” in 2007 demonstrated that hormone therapy significantly accelerated the response to sertraline for treating symptoms as compared to the women receiving sertraline with placebo. Another study published in the “American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” in 2001, showed that estrogen replacement therapy without progesterone may enhance the response to sertraline in terms of quality of life and general improvement with depression.
Sertraline, like any medicine, may cause certain undesirable side effects. Your mental health may change in unexpected ways when you take sertraline or other antidepressant medicines. Drugs.com states that you should call your doctor immediately if you have any new symptoms or if your symptoms worsen, including changes in your mood or behavior, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping or if you feel more depressed or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. Avoid alcohol when taking sertraline, because it can enhance some of the side effects. Also, sertraline may impair your thinking or reactions, so use caution when you are driving or doing anything that requires you to be alert. Avoid medicines that make you sleepy, such as cold or allergy medicines, when taking sertraline.
- MayoClinic.com: Menopause
- National Institutes of Health: Menopause
- Drugs.com: Sertraline
- “Climacteric”; Sertraline Improves the Somatic and Psychological Symptoms of the Climacteric Syndrome; S Aedo, et al.; Aug 2011
- “Menopause”; Sertraline to Treat Hot Flashes: A Randomized Controlled, Double-Blind, Crossover Trial in a General Population; PR Gordon, et al.; Jul-Aug 2006
- “Menopause”; The Variable Response of Women With Menopausal Hot Flashes When Treated With Sertraline; JP Kerwin, et al.; Sep-Oct 2007
- National Institutes of Health: Hormone Replacement Therapy
- “Journal of Psychiatric Research”; Estrogen and Response to Sertraline in Postmenopausal Women with Major Depressive Disorder: A Pilot Study; NL Rasgon, et al.; Apr-Jun 2007
- “American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry”; Estrogen Replacement Therapy and Antidepressant Response to Sertraline in Older Depressed Women; LS Schneider, et al.; Fall 2001