Constipation and diarrhea during the menopause transition and early postmenopause: observations from the Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study

Menopause. 2018 Jun;25(6):615-624. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001057.


Objective: To assess the relationship of constipation and diarrhea severity during the menopause transition (MT) with age, MT stage, reproductive biomarkers, stress-related biomarkers, and stress-related perceptions.

Methods: From 1990 to 1992, women aged 35 to 55 years were recruited from the greater Seattle area; 291 of them consented to ongoing (1990-2013) annual data collection by daily menstrual calendar, health diary, and annual health questionnaire. A subset (n = 131) provided a first morning voided urine specimen (1997-2013). These were assayed for levels of E1G, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Mixed-effects modeling was used to identify how changes in constipation and diarrhea severity over time related to age, MT stage, reproductive biomarkers, stress-related biomarkers, and stress-related perceptions.

Results: In a univariate model, age, late reproductive (LR) stage, tension, and anxiety were all significantly and positively related to constipation severity, whereas cortisol was significantly and negatively associated. In a multivariate model, only tension and cortisol remained significant predictors of constipation severity (P < 0.05). In a univariate model, age, LR stage, and estrone glucuronide were significantly and negatively associated with diarrhea severity, whereas tension, anxiety, and perceived stress were significantly and positively related. In a multivariate model, only tension and age remained significant predictors of diarrhea severity.

Conclusions: Key reproductive hormones do not play a significant role in constipation or diarrhea severity in the MT. In contrast, stress perception, tension, anxiety, and cortisol do. These factors should be evaluated in further research involving constipation and diarrhea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Constipation / psychology
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology*
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Diarrhea / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / urine*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Women's Health


  • Biomarkers