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Presence of young children at home may moderate development of hot flashes during the menopausal transition

Lorenz, Tierney K. PhD1,2; McGregor, Bonnie A. PhD3; Vitzthum, Virginia J. PhD1,2,4,5

doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000334
Brief Reports

Objective This work aims to determine the role of child care in hot flashes. Broad differences in vasomotor symptom experience are observed among perimenopausal women across cultures. Women in cultures where contact with young children is common report significantly fewer and less severe hot flashes than women in cultures where older women spend less time around children. Could these differences be related to the presence of young children?

Methods We surveyed 117 healthy women undergoing prophylactic bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries to reduce the risk of gynecologic cancers). Participants provided demographic information, including pre–surgical operation menopause status and number of children (younger than 13 y, 13-17 y, and 18 y or older) living at home. They were surveyed for menopausal symptoms 2 weeks before surgical operation and at 2 months, 6 months, and 1 year after surgical operation.

Results Women who were premenopausal at the time of surgical operation experienced a significant increase in vasomotor symptoms. Within this group, participants with young children at home reported significantly fewer vasomotor symptoms across time than did women who did not live with young children. Women who were already menopausal at the time of surgical operation who had young children at home reported more vasomotor symptoms before surgical operation than did those without young children; however, this effect did not remain significant across follow-ups.

Conclusions These findings suggest that interactions with young children may mitigate hot flashes in women undergoing surgical menopause. These findings may be used to counsel women who are considering prophylactic oophorectomy about the likelihood of menopausal symptoms.

From the 1Center for Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN; 2The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN; 3Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; 4Evolutionary Anthropology Laboratory, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN; and 5Department of Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN.

Received June 2, 2014; revised and accepted July 29, 2014.

The contents of this manuscript are the original work of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health.

Funding/support: Data were collected with support from National Institutes of Health Cancer Center support grant 5P30 CA015704-31. T.K.L. was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant T32HD049336-09.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Tierney K. Lorenz, PhD, Center for Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University Bloomington, 326 Morrison Hall, 1165 E Third St, Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail:

© 2015 by The North American Menopause Society.