Life course theory suggests that exposures during critical or sensitive periods have particularly profound effects on health. Most research on this subject has focused on the occurrence of such windows early in life. We investigated whether perimenopause, a period of dramatic neuroendocrine changes at midlife, represents a sensitive period for response to stress by evaluating the relation of perceived stress to fibrinogen, a biomarker for inflammation.Methods:
The study sample was composed of participants in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, a longitudinal study on women's health during the menopausal transition (n = 3,287). We fitted linear mixed effects models to estimate the longitudinal relationship between stress and menopausal stage and the association between stress and fibrinogen over the menopausal transition.Results:
Women in early and late perimenopause reported perceiving higher levels of stress than premenopausal women (P < 0.05), adjusted for confounding variables. This increased perception of stress during perimenopause, however, was unrelated to changes in fibrinogen.Conclusions:
Although neuroendocrine changes during the menopausal transition may exacerbate the negative health effects of stress, the findings of this study do not suggest such interaction, as measured by changes in fibrinogen. The significant association observed between perceived stress and menopause status, however, may still have important implications, given prior literature linking perceived stress with numerous health outcomes.