Approximately 1 in 10 females of childbearing age deal with PCOS. The condition affects hormone levels due to which the female produces too much male hormone androgen.
Do PCOS and Menopause affect each other?
A female is considered to have gone through menopause after not having a period for 12 months straight. The average age for menopause is at 51 years.
Females with PCOS tend to go through menopause about 2 years later than females without the condition.
Menopause does not cure Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. When females go through menopause, they can still experience symptoms of PCOS, along with the symptoms of menopause.
Role of hormones
Different roles that the hormones play in causing menopause and PCOS are mentioned below-
Hormones in PCOS
The symptoms that females with PCOS experience are the result of an imbalance of the sex hormones. However, the cause of the hormonal imbalance causing PCOS is not well known.
Females with PCOS produce a high level (more than normal) of testosterone, the male sex hormone than other females women do. Females with PCOS may also have a lower level of progesterone, the female sex hormone.
An increased level of testosterone in females can make their bodies more resistant to insulin. This means that insulin no longer can control blood sugar levels effectively, which may lead to high blood sugar levels and a higher risk of diabetes.
Hormones in menopause
Menopause is caused by a gradual decrease in progesterone and estrogen. The reduction in these hormones begins years before the menopause. This phase is called perimenopause. Over time, when the female sex hormone levels are low enough, the female stops ovulating, which causes her to stop menstruating.
The reduction in hormones that happens in menopause does not correct the imbalance of hormones that causes PCOS. Menopause does not cure PCOS.
What happens to PCOS as a female reaches menopause?
One thing that does change if a female has PCOS is that as she hits her 40s and closer to menopause, her menstrual cycle is likely to become more regular. Females with PCOS hit menopause about 2 years later than the ones without PCOS.
Many studies and research have been conducted into how the hormone levels of females with PCOS change as they get older. One such study examined females with PCOS and compared their hormone levels with the females without PCOS, and then re-examined them again 21 years later.
It was found that over time, testosterone levels in females with PCOS did decrease gradually. However, the hormone levels did not reduce to normal levels until 20 years after they had menopause. This is the reason menopause does not stop, treat or cure PCOS symptoms.
The study also found that while menopause did not stop all PCOS symptoms, the fall in testosterone levels had a positive effect as the females got older. The researchers discovered that females with PCOS tended to experience more regular periods as they age.
Treatment and self-management
There are several ways that females can help manage the common symptoms of perimenopause and PCOS, including-
Both the PCOS and perimenopause can cause weight gain, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A female can maintain a physically fit lifestyle and a healthy diet to manage her weight. She can also take certain measures to keep her weight under control, including-
- Control the portion size for each meal, especially at dinner
- Reduce the carbohydrate intake
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables
- Exercise regularly
- Keep an eye on the overall calorie intake
PCOS and perimenopause can be responsible for insomnia, making it hard to sleep. Females can increase their chances of sleeping well by improving their sleep cycles. Go to bed early and get up at regular times. Avoid binge-watching or over-eating past bedtime. Reducing electronics from the bedroom while sleeping can bring better sleep by minimizing distractions.
Dealing with unwanted hair
Both PCOS and perimenopause can lead to unwanted or male pattern hair growth, which can be distressing for the female. Waxing, plucking, or just using hair removal cream can help remove the hair.
Consult your gynecologist for advice on the best way to remove hair, if you are concerned. In some cases, a gynecologist may also prescribe medication to help, if suitable for the female.
Research is still ongoing, but there is currently no cure for PCOS. PCOS may also continue after menopause, but lifestyle changes suggested can help in managing symptoms of PCOS and menopause.
Menopause happens to every female as she gets older. Using some ideas and suggestions from your gynecologist can help make symptoms more manageable.