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Short menstrual cycles may predict earlier menopause, worse symptoms in midlife

Women with shorter menstrual cycles may reach menopause earlier and experience more severe symptoms overall, according to research in Menopause.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study of 634 women at obstetric practices in eastern Massachusetts to explore menstrual cycle length as a potential predictor of a woman’s age at menopause and associated symptom severity.1

Menstrual cycle length was split into 3 categories:

  • Short: A menstrual cycle duration of less than 25 days
  • Regular: 26 to 34 days
  • Long: 35 days or more

From 1999 to 2002, women self-reported menstrual cycle lengths at early pregnancy at various obstetric practices in eastern Massachusetts. Approximately 18 years later, at midlife, women self-reported the presence and severity of 11 menopausal symptoms—somatic, psychological, and urogenital—over the past year via the Menopause Rating Scale. They also reported the age at natural menopause.

Of the 637 women, 14% reported short cycles (n=90), 80% reported normal cycles (n=505), and 6% reported long cycles (n=39).

Researchers ultimately found that women with shorter menstrual cycles had higher rates of all menopausal symptoms than women with normal cycles. They were also more likely to experience worse somatic and psychological symptoms—sleep problems, heart discomfort, and depressive mood symptoms—than women with normal cycles. Women with short menstrual cycles also reported menopause at an earlier age than those with normal cycles.

Interestingly researchers found no associations with women with long menstrual cycles.

“Using the menstrual cycle as an additional vital sign adds a powerful tool to the assessment of physical and mental health for women during reproductive years,” said Lidia Minguez Alarcon, the study’s primary author, in a video presentation of the research.

The study is part of Project Viva—a larger ongoing longitudinal research project from Harvard Medical School—dedicated to improving the health of mothers and their children by looking at a multitude of factors during pregnancy and after birth.2

References

  1. Petridis E. https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/press-release/menstrual-cycle-length-and-meno-symptoms-and-age-at-meno.pdf
  2. Harvard.edu. Project Viva | A Study of Health for The Next Generation. Harvard.edu. Published 2019. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.hm