Thousands of women come to PCOS Diet Support everyday, looking for answers to their many questions about PCOS. And I know that only a percentage of you are concerned about fertility. There is another group of women that wonder how PCOS will affect them as they age.
So, in this article, I thought we should have a look at what you can expect with regards to PCOS post menopause. To start with, let’s have a look at the changes that happen during menopause in women without PCOS.
Menopause in Women without PCOS
During menopause, there is a fluctuation in various hormone levels that result in the cessation of menses (women stop having their period). Generally, all women experience an increase in insulin resistance, fat around the belly, and increase in cholesterol (1).
So, let’s see how that compares with women with PCOS. As usual, there’s good news and there’s good news and there’s bad news. Let’s have a look at the bad news first, shall we? That way we can end on a positive note.
Menopause in Women with PCOS
The Bad News
The bad news is that a lot of us would have struggled with insulin resistance, higher than average cholesterol, high testosterone levels as part and parcel of our PCOS. All of this can impact on our cardiovascular system over time, resulting in a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as we age (1).
Also, our hirsutism generally persists post menopause (2)
Okay, so that’s the bad news. Let’s have a look at some positives…
The Good News
Weight and Blood Pressure
Well, to start off with, women without PCOS tend to experience increased blood pressure and increased weight. Well, women with PCOS don’t usually experience this increase. We tend to remain the same (1).
Type 2 Diabetes
Right, this one is a bit of a mixed bag. We are 33 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the general population, before menopause. Not so great. BUT, as women go through menopause, their risk of type 2 diabetes increases too. So, 20 years down the line, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is about equal in women with and without PCOS.
Our Testosterone Levels May Drop
This one we need to put in perspective. Our free testosterone levels at the age of 42-47 will probably drop to half of what they were when we were 20-42. That’s good. But, they will still be higher than the women without PCOS (3).
Longer Reproductive Lifespan
So here is one more piece of good news. We tend to have a longer reproductive lifespan and will probably start menopause later than the average woman (about 2 years later). So, whilst we may struggle to have children, we also have a longer timeframe in which to have them (2).
So to summarize, what we are saying is that the metabolic markers of women without PCOS will probably worsen to the point of the women with PCOS. The difference then becomes, how long we are exposed to the worsening metabolic markers.
And, we will probably reach menopause later and therefore have a longer timeframe in which to start a family.
So now, my next question would be: Is there anything we can do to improve our outcomes post menopause?
Managing PCOS Post Menopause
We know that PCOS is not going to go away as it is fundamentally an endocrine (or hormone) disorder. It’s not going to stop being a problem when we reach menopause.
It is still vitally important that we continue with a healthy PCOS diet that is going to manage that insulin resistance and weight gain (remember that our weight will probably stay the same through menopause so maintaining a healthy weight will help to improve your metabolic markers over the long term).
And finally, keeping fit and exercising regularly will help to lower your risk of heart disease.
I would love to hear from you, especially if you have any experience of PCOS post menopause. Please leave me a comment below!