PCOS and Menopause- an Overview
Guest post by Pamela Miller
It remains to be seen whether or not menopause has a direct effect on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Definitively tracking the effects of menopause on a woman’s body is difficult because the changes brought about by hormonal imbalance in menopause, just like in PCOS, impact a number of processes and functions. This difficulty is further compounded by the fact that hormones affect the body synergistically and one is never too sure how a person’s appearance, health condition, or disposition will reflect one’s changing hormone levels.
Naturally, for women with PCOS, it is only too easy to worry about how menopause will disrupt the way their bodies adjust to the effects of their pre-existing hormonal imbalance. It is perfectly fine to expect the worst when these 2 conditions coincide. However, recent researches suggest that menopause may offer a bit of relief from PCOS.
Improvements to look forward to
A woman is said to have PCOS when she experiences at least 2 of these 3 main symptoms: irregular menstrual cycles or failure to release an ovum for more than 3 months, a condition that makes it difficult for a woman to conceive; excessive androgen which can cause acne, androgenic alopecia, excessive body and facial hair, and other conditions that can change one’s appearance; and the possibility of growing small cysts in one’s ovaries. These symptoms are all brought about by hormonal imbalance, especially the overabundance of male hormones such as testosterone in a woman’s body.
A study conducted by Schmidt J. in 2011 shows that testosterone in PCOS women eventually decreases to normal levels at around the age of 61, while DHEAS, the hormone that triggers the production of androgens and estrogens, reaches normal levels at around 20 years after menopause. Because of the difference in the change of their hormonal levels, the research concluded that women with PCOS enter the menopausal phase at a much later age compared to those without PCOS.
Due to the decrease in androgen, PCOS women may also be able to have a more regular menstruation period and a better chance of conceiving as they grow older.
Conditions to be aware of
Despite the possible positive impacts of menopause on PCOS symptoms, it should be noted that life-long health risks persist even after the onset of menopause. As women with PCOS age, they tend to have high levels of insulin, impaired glucose metabolism, and higher insulin resistance compared to women without PCOS. These conditions can eventually lead to cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Also, hirsutism or abnormal hair growth can remain long after the onset of menopause.
Finally, it should be noted that PCOS is not cured by menopause. A woman with PCOS can best deal with menopause by anticipating the changes that come with it, both the good and the bad. This way, she can detect any health problems and have them treated effectively at the earliest time possible.
Pamela Miller works as a marketing manager for Saint John’s Health Center. She contributes health and wellness articles to different websites. She also actively participates in helping cancer patients in her community.
Resources on PCOS and Menopause:
- The Good News About PCOS and Menopause [Podcast with Dr. Rashmi Kudesia]
- Hormone Repair- Menopause Edition [Podcast with Dr. Lara Briden]
- Transitioning to Menopause with PCOS
- Bioidentical Hormones for Pregnancy & Menopause [Podcast with Dr. Arasu]
- PCOS & Menopause (& Inositol?)
I was diagnosed with PCOS (back when it was called Stein Leventhal Syndrome!) when I was 22. I am 49 now and preparing to go through menopause. My periods became regular every 28 days when I was 40, and then recently started being erratic and heavy. I have fibroids, thanks to estrogen dominance. But my biggest concern, as you mentioned, are the metabolic issues and cardiovascular degradation that occur with insulin resistance. I pretty much follow a paleo diet (NOT extreme low carb because of low cortisol), and it helps some with how I feel. I’ve had no success with weight loss. None. My husband of thirty one years is kind enough to tweeze my chin nightly. So romantic, he is! What supplements or whole foods would you recommend to keep me balanced as I make this transition through menopause?
Dear Michelle, I just want to let you know you’re so lucky to have a husband of thirty-one years like that!!