Traumatic Experiences Tied to Lower Estrogen Levels in Menopause

— Less sleep also impacted sex hormones in postmenopausal women


ATLANTA -- Traumatic life experiences were linked with lower levels of estrogens in menopause, especially for women who got fewer hours of sleep.

The finding "underscores the importance of considering trauma in relation to endogenous estrogens, which have implications for women's midlife health," researchers noted.

In the , postmenopausal women who experienced a traumatic event across their lifetime had lower levels of estradiol compared to those who did not (B[SE]=-0.16 [0.08], P=0.04), reported Mary Carson, MS, PhD candidate, of the University of Pittsburgh.

History of a traumatic event was also associated with lower levels of estrone (B[SE]=-0.14 [0.06], P=0.01), but not with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH; B[SE]=0.05 [0.07], P=0.49). Carson said in a presentation at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting.

The association between trauma and lower levels of estradiol was primarily observed in women who got less than 6 hours of sleep/night, she stated.

Between 37%-78% of U.S. women experience a traumatic event at some point in their lifetime, including assault, harassment, or natural disasters, Carson said. Stress can have an impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which is responsible for reproductive function. Previous research has shown that may suppress ovarian estrogen secretion.

Carson and colleagues assessed how the experience of a traumatic event impacted levels of estradiol and estrone in postmenopausal women. From 2017 to 2021, the researchers evaluated women (ages 45-67) who were not taking hormone therapy or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Additionally, women in the study did not have bilateral oophorectomy or hysterectomy.

Carson's group measured estrogen levels via liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and assessed FSH via immunoassay. Additionally, they assessed trauma using the Brief Trauma Questionnaire, which required self-report of traumatic experiences, and measured hours of sleep. The researchers adjusted for covariates including age, race/ethnicity, BMI, and smoking history.

The average age among the 260 women in the study was 59, and more than three-fourths were white. The mean BMI was 29. Average estrone levels were 35 pg/mL, and average estradiol levels were 6.2 pg/mL. Nearly a third of women reported getting less than 6 hours of sleep/night.

Overall, 64% of participants reported a traumatic event, the most common ones being sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact.

"Findings were not accounted for by depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, or vasomotor symptoms," Carson and colleagues wrote.

Carson said future research should aim to examine the association between trauma and fluctuation in sex hormones, and that further investigations of FSH and testosterone are needed.

  • Amanda D'Ambrosio is a reporter on app’s enterprise & investigative team. She covers obstetrics-gynecology and other clinical news, and writes features about the U.S. healthcare system.


The study was funded by the NIH.

Carson disclosed no relationships with industry.

Primary Source

North American Menopause Society

Carson M, et al "Traumatic experiences and hormone concentrations among midlife women" NAMS 2022; Abstract S-18.