PCOS is regarded as one of the most common endocrine disorders among women.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition that generally prevails among women of childbearing age. It is usually caused due to an imbalance in hormones and leads to the development of cysts outside a woman’s ovaries.
Given that PCOS has the power to affect fertility, you might wonder, what happens after menopause? While the implication might seem that menopause is the obvious antidote to PCOS, the female body is far more complex.
Let’s look into this and study the possible links and outcomes of PCOS and menopause.
What Happens to Your Body During Menopause?
In a nutshell, menopause is when a woman’s periods come to a stop. However, a nutshell isn’t enough, cause there’s a lot more to it than that.
Basically, every woman has a finite number of eggs in her ovaries. These ovaries also produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone, that control and regulate your menstrual cycles. During this time, levels of testosterone also drop.
Now while menopause is the actual end of your monthly cycles, this process begins a while before. This period (pun intended) is called perimenopause.
During this time, the ovaries gradually reduce the amount of estrogen released, until finally, the ovaries stop releasing any eggs at all. This drop in estrogen levels is at its peak, the final two years before menopause. It is usually around this time, that you will see all those menopause symptoms.
These might include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and severe mood swings. However, the key takeaway is that your hormonal levels are fluctuating.
Actual menopause refers to the first year during which no eggs are released. Subsequent years are generally called post-menopause.
Now generally, women are most likely to experience menopause during the ages of 40-50. However, generally, women who have PCOS experience menopause on an average of two years later.
So, now let’s take this information into our next study – the causes of PCOS.
What Happens During PCOS?
PCOS is usually associated with factors like genetics, high levels of androgens and high levels of insulin. Androgens are hormones that are usually associated with developing typically male attributes like facial hair, male-patterned baldness, and so on.
Women with PCOS generally tend to have higher levels of androgens, causing symptoms like these. One of these hormones includes testosterone, which as explained above, drops during menopause. They may also have lower levels of the hormone progesterone.
Most women with PCOS also have insulin resistance – a condition where your cells do not respond or react appropriately to the insulin hormone. Now, this situation is not ideal, as insulin resistance can eventually lead to poor health conditions like diabetes.
What Do PCOS and Menopause Have in Common?
A few commonalities between PCOS and menopause include the loss of fertility, the potential mood changes, hormonal fluctuations, weight gain and missed periods.
That being said, symptoms like acne are unique to PCOS, and symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal infections, and vaginal dryness are unique to menopause.
So now, let’s look into how they connect during menopause.
How Do They Affect Each Other?
Unfortunately, for a woman with PCOS, experiencing perimenopause, she may experience both of these symptoms at the time.
Even though testosterone levels generally decrease during perimenopause, they won’t return to normal levels until approximately twenty years after menopause. So while you may notice a reduction in symptoms like facial hair, they won’t subside entirely.
However, as you gradually approach menopause, you may notice that your irregular periods (brought about by PCOS), may gradually become more regular.
The Prevalence of Health Risks
So now, due to the unchanging (or scarcely changing) hormonal levels, you will still be prone to similar health risks as before. This includes the risk of:
- High blood pressure, or hypertension
- Sleep disorders
- Mood disorders like depression or anxiety
- Obesity, or increased weight gain
- High cholesterol
While these conditions are common among women experiencing menopause, those with PCOS have a higher-than-average risk of attracting these symptoms and diseases. If you or someone you know currently face these difficulties, it is best to consult with your gynaecologist as soon as possible. This can help to prevent the situation from exacerbating.
How Can You Treat these Symptoms?
Managing both, the symptoms of PCOS and menopause, all at once can take an enormous toll on a woman’s physical and mental health. However, there are several treatment options available to choose from.
Here are some simple changes you can incorporate into your own lifestyle:
- Improve your dietary habits, focus on nutrient intake and reduce consumption of oily, fried foods.
- Incorporate some low impact exercises into your daily routine. Some examples you can consider are walking, jump rope, cycling and yoga.
- If your focus is on weight loss, consider exploring your weight-loss type.
- Consider going to therapy or consulting a psychiatrist regarding your mood swings, depression or other forms of mental health issues.
- Make sure you regularly visit your gynaecologist or general physician for a check-up.
Staying Vigilant Is Key
With a few of these changes, you can continue to live a perfectly normal, healthy life. However, do make sure to be mindful of your health and what your body is telling you.
Entering this new phase of womanhood can seem daunting, but with the right precautions and care, you are sure to lead a happier, healthier life, while experiencing both, PCOS and menopause!
Want more lifestyle tips to help you through? Check out our guide on incorporating natural nutrition into your daily meals!