Through several Branches within its Division of Extramural Research, the 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.
The 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.