NICHD joins the National Institute on Aging and other agencies in advancing the understanding and impact of changes experienced by women during menopause, providing effective alternatives for the relief of menopausal symptoms, and examining the ways menopause affects women’s overall health and well-being.
Research at NICHD addresses issues affecting perimenopausal and postmenopausal women with the aim of maintaining and improving their quality of life. Many of these efforts are done in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging and other NIH Institutes and Centers.
Menopause research is supported through many Branches within the Division of Extramural Research and includes efforts such as:
- Programs to address the effects of perimenopausal and postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Support for the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network, a clinical trials network that has addressed a variety of topics in the field of urogynecology
- Clinical trials related to the treatment of menopausal symptoms
- Studies of ovarian aging, the impact of menopause on vaginal connective tissue support, and preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in midlife women
- Research to advance understanding of the changing hormone levels experienced through menopause and how they affect a woman's susceptibility to infectious disease, such as HIV, and the effectiveness of treatments to prevent infection
Institute Activities and Advances
Through several Branches within its Division of Extramural Research, NICHD supports and conducts a broad range of research related to menopause. An overview of this research is described below.
Contraception Research Branch (CRB) research addresses the effects of peri- and postmenopausal hormone therapy on overall health.
During their lifetimes, women have a risk of up to 11% that they will require surgery for a pelvic floor disorder, such as pelvic organ prolapse or incontinence. The risk of pelvic organ prolapse increases with age and jumps dramatically at menopause, perhaps due to the decrease in ovarian steroids. The Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch (GHDB) supports the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network (PFDN), a clinical trials network that has addressed research topics in the field of urogynecology.
With the National Institute on Aging, the GHDB also supports clinical trials related to the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Branch-supported efforts include research to estimate the mean age at menopause among American women, assess trends in the mean age at menopause overall and among various race/ethnicity subgroups, and identify factors associated with age at menopause. In particular, this analysis examines the possible association between contraceptive hormone usage and age at menopause.
The Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch (OPPTB)supports research on the changing hormone environment a woman experiences during menopause. Some of these changes parallel hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle. Researchers are investigating whether these shifts alter the body's capacity to resist HIV or respond to preventive medication. In addition, the OPPTB supports research to understand the impact of menopause on the transmission of the virus from HIV-positive women.
Other Activities and Advances
NICHD cosponsored the NIH State-of-the-Science Conference on Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms in 2005, bringing together experts to evaluate the evidence regarding symptoms of menopause and their treatment and to define a research agenda.