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Open Access Research article

Variability of bothersome menopausal symptoms over time – a longitudinal analysis using the Estonian postmenopausal hormone therapy trial (EPHT)

Elina Hemminki1*, Elena Regushevskaya1, Riitta Luoto2 and Piret Veerus3

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), P.O. Box 30, 00271, Helsinki, Finland

2 UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research and National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), P.O. Box 30, 33501, Tampere, Finland

3 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, National Institute for Health Development, Hiiu 42, 11619, Tallinn, Estonia

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BMC Women's Health 2012, 12:44  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-12-44

Published: 21 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Very little data are available on the natural course or level of disturbance of vasomotor symptoms among middle-aged women. Using readily collected trial data we studied the persistence of vasomotor symptoms among untreated women.

Methods

In a trial comparing combined hormone therapy to placebo or no treatment (control groups), a cohort of women aged 50–59 at recruitment were followed annually by questionnaires. Women in the control groups (n = 486) were grouped by the number of years followed, with the prevalence and severity of symptoms calculated both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.

Results

About two thirds of the women (67%) reported vasomotor symptoms and half (46%) bothersome symptoms at recruitment. In the cross-sectional analysis, their prevalence declined between recruitment and 1-year follow-up (32% bothersome symptoms) and 2-year follow-up (27%). Thereafter it remained about the same level. In the longitudinal analysis, there was a notable variation in the prevalence of disturbing vasomotor symptoms over time, time entering the study and the compliance to the surveys. In the two groups having most follow-up times, the proportion of women with bothersome symptoms first increased and then decreased.

Conclusions

There was a notable variability in the development of disturbing vasomotor symptoms over time in a selected group of women aged 50–59. Population-based follow-up studies of untreated women would be useful to estimate the symptom burden.

Keywords:
Menopausal symptoms; Duration; Follow-up; Estonia