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PCOS and Menopause

by: Dr. Mary Claire Haver
PCOS-D

If you are one the millions of American women living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), going through menopause can feel like you are doing “double duty” with bothersome symptoms. Are things like weight gain, trouble sleeping, and mood swings coming from PCOS or perimenopause/menopause? The answer is: maybe both.

Table of Contents

PCOS and menopause are both caused by hormonal changes and have many of the same symptoms, which makes it difficult to know when perimenopause begins. Weight gain and increased cardiovascular risk are associated with perimenopause, and these are conditions that may be intensified for a woman with PCOS who is already dealing with metabolic problems.

Low levels of progesterone are present in women with PCOS and women in perimenopause and menopause. This hormone deficiency causes symptoms that can be seen in both conditions. Studies show that women with PCOS reach menopause later than other women. The delay is typically about two years.

Dr. Mary Claire Haver explains PCOS and what happens when it converges with menopause, and how you can live a healthy life during this turbulent time.

What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common metabolic disorder for women, and is a leading cause of infertility. A widespread perception is that PCOS is a condition that only affects women during childbearing years, but that is a myth. PCOS is a chronic condition that must be managed through each stage of a woman’s life, including menopause.

As women get older, the symptoms of PCOS evolve from mostly reproductive to more broad-reaching metabolic concerns. It is a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Infertility
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Weight gain
  • Increased facial and body hair
  • Depression and anxiety
  • High cholesterol
  • Acne 
  • Pelvic pain

Health risks associated with PCOS:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack or other cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke 

Is it PCOS or menopause?

This is a tough question to answer and, unfortunately, the experts are still learning. Research is sparse about definitive ways to differentiate some of the symptoms of PCOS and menopause, and there is no accurate lab test that can diagnose perimenopause. 

Dr. Haver outlines, below, some of the things you can do to manage the symptoms. It is also important to have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider about the specific symptoms you are facing.

When PCOS and Menopause Meet: What to Expect 

Symptoms can be very similar. When women with PCOS go through perimenopause and menopause, they may experience symptoms of both conditions at the same time.

PCOSPerimenopause/Menopause

Irregular or missed periods

X

X

Weight gain

X

X

Mood swings

X

X

Difficulty sleeping

X

X

Increased facial or body hair

X

X

Acne

X
X

Pelvic Pain 

X

Hot Flashes/Night Sweats

X

Sexual Dysfunction

X

Bone Loss

X

How to Manage the Symptoms

Because both conditions involve hormonal imbalance, some of the same methods can be used to improve symptoms for both PCOS and menopause. Lifestyle modifications can significantly improve your quality of life.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Because of the increased risk of insulin resistance, weight gain can be a substantial problem when PCOS and menopause come together. Studies show that losing only 5 percent of body weight can make a big difference for PCOS patients who are overweight. 

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Hot flashes and mood changes can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. To help promote a restful night, stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time. Try to exercise in the morning, soon after you wake up. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Eat Plenty of Protein and Whole Foods

Better nutrition can help reduce hot flashes, improve sleep, improve cardiovascular health, increase bone density and muscle mass, and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that women who eat diets high in whole foods (including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains) have better overall health and fewer menopause symptoms. 

Talk to your doctor.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information available to determine if symptoms are related to PCOS or perimenopause.  If you have PCOS and are in midlife, speak with your healthcare provider about how to manage these two conditions simultaneously. PCOS is a long-term condition, and care needs to change as you move through different stages of life. And, remember the importance of lifestyle choices to manage your symptoms. The Galveston Diet is a scientifically based plan that targets the needs of menopausal women to help guide you to a long, healthy life. 

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/pcos-and-menopause

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319363#symptoms-of-pcos-and-perimenopause

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34839797/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9045543/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8189332/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352911/

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/98/12/4629/2834024

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With an anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition, Dr. Haver has found an innovative solution that actually works at this time in our lives. The Galveston Diet can help women in menopause feel more confident in their skin.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency room immediately.

The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the authors are affiliated.

While the information on the site was prepared to provide accurate information regarding topics related to general and specific health issues, the information contained in the site is made available with the express understanding that neither Dr. Mary Claire Haver, galvestondiet.com, nor the other experts on the site, nor the site itself, nor members of the Site are dispensing medical advice and do not intend any of this information to be used for self-diagnosis or treatment.

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