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Menopause guidance challenges misconceptions about mood and depression

Advice for nurses highlights how common menopause-related symptoms may be misdiagnosed
Illustration entitled 'menopause', showing a female nurse

Advice for nurses highlights how common menopause-related symptoms may be misdiagnosed

Nurses are being urged to ask could it be menopause? when caring for women who seem to be displaying signs of depression.

Low mood is a common symptom of menopause, but can be misdiagnosed as depression, meaning some women are inappropriately prescribed antidepressants.

Helping nurses differentiate between signs of depression and menopause

The RCN has issued new guidance for all nurses covering the signs, symptoms and appropriate treatment for the menopause.

The average age that women in the UK reach the menopause is 51-52, with start of menopause generally ranging between age 45 and 57.

RCN womens health forum chair Debra Holloway said the guidance was aimed at helping nurses unpick the difference between depression and menopause.

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Advice for nurses highlights how common menopause-related symptoms may be misdiagnosed

Illustration entitled 'menopause', showing a female nurse
Picture: iStock/RCNi

Nurses are being urged to ask ‘could it be menopause?’ when caring for women who seem to be displaying signs of depression.

Low mood is a common symptom of menopause, but can be misdiagnosed as depression, meaning some women are inappropriately prescribed antidepressants.

Helping nurses differentiate between signs of depression and menopause

The RCN has issued new guidance for all nurses covering the signs, symptoms and appropriate treatment for the menopause.

The average age that women in the UK reach the menopause is 51-52, with start of menopause generally ranging between age 45 and 57.

RCN women’s health forum chair Debra Holloway said the guidance was aimed at helping nurses ‘unpick the difference between depression and menopause’.  

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines state that antidepressants do not help with menopause-related low mood and anxiety.

What the RCN’s menopause guidance says

  • Consider the menopause or hormone-related issues when caring for or treating women
  • Suggest that women with menopause symptoms see their GP, practice nurse or menopause specialist
  • Be confident to ask questions related to well-being, mood, vaginal dryness and sexual issues in a compassionate and supportive way
  • Assess whether a woman’s symptoms are related to menopause; do not assume it is depression
  • Be aware of common menopause treatments and medication interactions, and of the evidence on side effects and myths around hormone replacement therapy

 

Wider range of menopause symptoms

Ms Holloway said the guidance aims to move away from the misconception that menopause symptoms are limited to hot flushes and night sweats, and also looks at the long-term impact on bone and cardiovascular health.

‘People don’t think about performance or low mood and certainly don’t think about bones and cardiovascular disease,’ she said.

‘The guidance is to help with quality of life and quality of treatment.’


Find out more

Menopause and Mental Health (RCN)


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