The length of your monthly menstrual cycle may provide clues about the severity of symptoms you'll experience during menopause and when it will start, new research suggests.
In a study that involved more than 600 women published online in the journal Menopause, researchers found that women with short menstrual cycles (less than 25 days) during their reproductive years were likely to experience more menopause symptoms. They were also more likely to start menopause earlier than women with normal menstrual cycles (26 to 34 days).
Menopause can cause hot flashes, depression, anxiety, changes in thinking, and sleep disturbances. Researchers said the usual risk factors for these symptoms include age and ethnicity as well as lifestyle factors such as weight, smoking and physical activity.
“The menstrual cycle is a biologic marker of overall health,” said Dr. Chrisandra Shufelt, president of the North American Menopause Society, which published the findings. “This study finds that a shorter menstrual-cycle length during a woman’s reproductive years is a window into her future midlife health.”
Women with short cycles also were more likely to have midlife sleep problems, heart discomfort, and depressive symptoms. These women also had heavier babies, according to the study authors led by Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Some contradictory data suggest that conditions like the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle and a history of irregular cycles may be linked with a reduced risk of depression in Chinese women, but a higher risk of depressive symptoms in French postmenopausal women.
Because only an association was seen in the study, the researchers said it will be important to validate these findings with further research and understand the mechanisms involved.