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Menopausal women should not be given HRT to treat depression, guidance says as prescriptions soar


  • Figures show the number of HRT prescriptions have soared in the last year 

Menopausal women should not be prescribed HRT for depression, according to landmark guidance.

A growing number of women are turning to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate distressing symptoms of the menopause.

Recent figures show the number of HRT prescriptions have soared in the last year, increasing 47 per cent compared to 2021/22.

But in a new menopause ‘toolkit’ experts say clinical depression is not a condition that should simply be treated with hormones as a cure. 

Recent figures show the number of HRT prescriptions have soared in the last year, increasing 47 per cent compared to 2021/22 (stock photo)

Recent figures show the number of HRT prescriptions have soared in the last year, increasing 47 per cent compared to 2021/22 (stock photo) 

The guidance, endorsed by the British Menopause Society and designed to be implemented worldwide, states that trials have found ‘no benefit of oestrogen therapy on depressive symptoms… over placebo’. 

While the medication is recommended to ease physical symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes, experts said clinical depression needs to be managed ‘in its own right’.

They added that women should consult their GP if they have troubling mental health problems – but doctors should not assume that depression in women of a certain age is caused by the menopause.

Professor Susan Davis, from Monash University in Australia, led development of the toolkit, which was presented in the journal Climacteric. 

She said: ‘Menopause may cause symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, irritability and mood swings, but clinical depression needs to be assessed and managed in its own right.

‘Menopause might exacerbate underlying depression but should not be assumed to be the cause of clinical depression.’ 

Professor Davis added: ‘Low mood and anxiety or mood swings are common at menopause and most improve with oestrogen, so these are indications for menopausal hormone therapy. 

While the medication is recommended to ease physical symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes, experts said clinical depression needs to be managed ‘in its own right’ (stock photo)

While the medication is recommended to ease physical symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes, experts said clinical depression needs to be managed ‘in its own right’ (stock photo)

HRT helps regulate falling levels of oestrogen and has been hailed by the likes of Davina McCall (pictured)

HRT helps regulate falling levels of oestrogen and has been hailed by the likes of Davina McCall (pictured) 

‘But clinical depression is not a condition that should simply be treated with hormones as a cure. 

‘We are trying to spell this out so that women with clinical depression are appropriately treated.’

The document, which replaces previous guidance released nearly ten years ago, also suggests HRT does not improve learning, thinking or memory.

HRT helps regulate falling levels of oestrogen and has been hailed by the likes of Davina McCall.

A separate study published yesterday also found that the menopause may diminish certain aspects of memory.

Researchers found the brain regions active during the formation and retrieval of particular memories were different in pre- and post-menopausal women.



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