Women's Health Concerns Clinic (WHCC)
What this program does...
We are a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and mental health counselors. Many of our physicians are active faculty members involved in the supervision and training of residents and medical students.
“Our mission is to promote women’s mental health and well-being across the menstrual cycle, childbearing years, and the transition to menopause through evidence-based clinical care, education and research.”
The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic (WHCC) provides assessment, consultation and treatment for women 18 years of age or older who are experiencing physical and/or emotional symptoms related to the reproductive milestones (i.e. menstrual cycle, pregnancy/postpartum, and menopause). We offer evaluation and treatment for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), changes in mood related to pregnancy and the postpartum period, and symptoms related to the menopausal transition.
In addition to our clinical practice, we also conduct a variety of basic and clinical research studies. The WHCC clinical staff are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, as well as the Father Sean O’Sullivan Research Centre at St. Joseph's Healthcare.
How this program helps...
Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
PMS refers to one or more physical or mood symptoms that appear during the week before your period and resolve within a few days of starting your period (e.g., irritability, mood swings). More than 100 different symptoms have been reported. Most women with PMS experience mild symptoms.
What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?
About 3 to 8% of women report premenstrual mood symptoms (such as irritability, tension, mood swings or depressed mood) that seriously interfere with their lifestyle or home, work or social relationships. This severe form of PMS is known as PMDD.
How are PMS and PMDD treated?
For mild symptoms, dietary changes, exercise, and stress management strategies can be helpful. Studies have shown that some vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium may decrease premenstrual symptoms for some women. However, women with the more severe symptoms associated with PMDD may not respond to these treatments and may require medications. Although we know that PMDD is NOT depression, we have found that some antidepressant medications taken in low doses and only during the premenstrual phase can reduce premenstrual symptoms significantly. In some cases, the use of hormone based therapies, such as contraceptive agents or estrogen therapy, may be useful.
Will I always have PMS or PMDD?
Because PMS is related to the menstrual cycle, you will not have PMS during pregnancy and after menopause. If you think you may have PMS or PMDD and wish to make a self-referral, please print and complete our PMDD Chart, follow the instructions indicated on the first page, and call our clinic at (905) 522-1155 ext. 33979.
Mood Changes during Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
Between 10% and 20% of women may experience one or more of the following symptoms during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period:
- Feeling sad or empty most of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities nearly every day
- Feeling worthless or guilty nearly every day
- Feeling unusually irritable
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Preoccupied with worries about the child's health or safety
- Feeling confused or disoriented
- Unable to concentrate
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Change in appetite
- Thoughts about suicide
Are you at risk?
Many factors have been identified that may increase your risk of developing mood problems during pregnancy or the postpartum period, including:
- Feeling depressed or anxious during pregnancy
- Personal history of depression, anxiety or other mood problems
- Family history of mental illness (in particular parents or siblings), including alcoholism, depression, postpartum depression, or postpartum psychosis
- History of premenstrual syndrome
- History of sexual abuse
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Severe sleep deprivation across late pregnancy, during labour and the immediate time period after delivery
How are mood changes during pregnancy or the postpartum period treated?
A treatment plan may include supportive counseling, medication therapy, or a combination of both. If you think you are experiencing mood changes or believe you are at risk for mood changes during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period and wish to make a self-referral, please print and complete the Edinburgh Ante/Postnatal Depression Scale, and call our clinic at (905) 522-1155 ext. 33979.
Mood Changes during the Menopausal Transition
What is menopause?
Menopause is the time in a women’s life when her ovaries no longer produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, menstrual periods cease, and she is no longer able to become pregnant. Some women experience the following bothersome symptoms during the menopausal transition:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Decrease in sexual desire
- Mood or anxiety symptoms
When does menopause occur?
Menopause typically occurs between 40 and 61 years of age. During the years leading up to menopause - referred to as the perimenopause - women may notice that their periods are becoming irregular. Women reach menopause when they have not had a menstrual period for 12 months.
Is it common for women to experience mood changes around menopause?
There is some evidence that perimenopause or menopause is a higher risk time for women to have major mood changes than any other time. Some women find that their physical symptoms (hot flashes/night sweats) may affect sleep and daily activities and eventually may affect mood. Also, the changes in hormone levels can affect emotions to a lesser or greater degree depending on your individual sensitivity. Some women may notice mild irritability, tearfulness, anxiety, depressed mood, lack of energy and poor concentration.
How is depression during the menopausal transition treated?
Mood symptoms may occur on their own or in addition to physical symptoms. If your symptoms are mild, then changes in diet, exercise and managing stress can be helpful. If your mood symptoms are as a result of physical symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and fatigue, then medication to treat those specific symptoms might be helpful. If you are experiencing moderate-to-severe mood symptoms only, then you may require hormonal treatment antidepressant medication. If you think you may have mood disturbances related to menopause, please print and complete the Greene Climacteric Scale, and call our clinic at (905) 522-1155 ext. 33979.
*** Please note that there has been a recent change in the WHCC main address and fax number ***
Effective July 13, 2015, the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic new location is:
St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton
West 5th Campus
100 West 5th Street
Hamilton, ON L8N 3K7.
For all referrals please fill out our Referral Form and fax it to our intake office at (905) 308-7220. Self-referrals are also accepted. Please call our intake coordinator directly at (905) 522-1155 ext. 33979.
Referrals are reviewed by our staff, and we will contact the patient for more detailed information. If the WHCC appears to be an appropriate service, an assessment visit will be scheduled for a more in-depth evaluation. Please note that an assessment does not guarantee treatment at the WHCC. A copy of our assessment and treatment recommendations will be sent back to the referring physician as well as the family physician.
Women’s Health Concerns Clinic (WHCC)
100 West 5th Street
Hamilton, ON L8N 3K7
905-522-1155 ext. 33979
WHCC General Fax Line: