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Does PCOS end at menopause?

By Lucy Rose Clinic

March 25, 2024

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. It is characterised by hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries. While PCOS is typically associated with reproductive issues, it can also increase the risk of developing other health problems, such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. As women with PCOS age, they may wonder if their symptoms will continue or if they will experience relief at menopause. In this article, we will explore whether PCOS ends at menopause and what women can expect as they transition through this phase of life.

PCOS Does Not End at Menopause

PCOS is a lifelong condition that does not end with menopause. However, the symptoms of PCOS may change as a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate during perimenopause and menopause. Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause, during which a woman’s ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. Menopause is defined as the point in time when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, signalling the end of her reproductive years.

 

Changes in Menstrual Patterns

Many women with PCOS experience irregular menstrual cycles, which can make it difficult to determine when perimenopause begins. However, as hormone levels shift, women may notice changes in their menstrual patterns. Some women may experience heavier or lighter periods, while others may skip periods altogether. These changes can be attributed to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels.

Impact on Health as Women Age

As women move through perimenopause and into menopause, their estrogen levels continue to decline. Estrogen plays a key role in regulating many aspects of a woman’s health, including bone density, cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular health. As a result, women with PCOS may be at an increased risk of developing these health issues as they age.

Symptoms of Hyperandrogenism

One of the hallmark symptoms of PCOS is hyperandrogenism, which refers to elevated levels of androgens, or male hormones, in the body. Women with PCOS may experience excess hair growth, acne, and male-pattern baldness due to this hormonal imbalance. As women age, their androgen levels may decrease, leading to a reduction in these symptoms. However, some women may continue to experience these symptoms even after menopause.

Weight Management

Another common symptom of PCOS is weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Women with PCOS often have insulin resistance, which means their bodies have trouble using insulin effectively. This can lead to high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As women approach menopause, their bodies become less sensitive to insulin, which can exacerbate these issues. Therefore, it is important for women with PCOS to focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet as they age.

Fertility Considerations

Women with PCOS may also experience a decline in fertility as they approach menopause. While many women with PCOS struggle with infertility in their reproductive years, some may still be able to conceive naturally or with the help of fertility treatments. However, as a woman’s ovaries age, her egg supply diminishes, making it more difficult to conceive. Women with PCOS who wish to conceive should work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a plan that takes their age and fertility status into account.

Menopause and Hypothyroidism

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. During this time, the body undergoes significant hormonal changes that can lead to a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Women with an underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, may experience additional symptoms as they transition through menopause.

Managing Hypothyroidism and Menopause Symptoms

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, which are essential for regulating metabolism and many other bodily functions. Women with hypothyroidism may experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, and cold intolerance. These symptoms can be exacerbated during menopause, as the decline in estrogen levels can impact thyroid function.

One of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism is fatigue, which can be especially challenging for women going through menopause. Fatigue can make it difficult to complete daily activities and can also impact mood and cognitive function.

In conclusion, while PCOS does not end at menopause, the symptoms of the condition may change as women age. Perimenopause and menopause can bring about fluctuations in hormone levels that may impact a woman’s menstrual cycle, as well as her risk of developing other health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Women with PCOS should continue to prioritise their health and well-being as they age, focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working with their healthcare provider to manage any symptoms or complications that arise.

Chat to one of our team today to see what testing can be done, and to support you through this journey, who knows it may only be a few tweaks and you will feel like you can take on the world again!

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