Is PCOS in your 30s different than in your younger years? Let’s explore the symptoms of this disease and how it can affect your life, fertility, and health.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age and is one of the most common causes infertility in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is a condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, difficulty conceiving, and other physical manifestations like excessive acne and hair growth. While many women commonly experience symptoms of PCOS in their 20s, the condition can continue well into a woman’s 30s, presenting new challenges and concerns. These stem from the development and changes in a woman’s body between these two decades.
As such, below are ways in which PCOS manifests in a woman’s 30s and ways to address the corresponding symptoms.
How PCOS Manifests in Your 30s
In terms of the physical, a woman’s metabolism slows down once they enter their 30s. For patients with PCOS, this makes it extra challenging to manage their weight, as weight gain is one of the most common effects of the condition.
As mentioned above, acne and excessive hair growth, known as hirsutism, also occur more intensely. These physical manifestations of PCOS can lead to feelings of self-consciousness and a negative impact on self-esteem.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can also affect a woman’s mental health, leading to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Compared to your 20s, having PCOS in your 30s can also be particularly distressing, as it coincides with a time when many women are trying to start a family.
Once you hit your 30s, fertility decline naturally speeds up, and PCOS can make it even more difficult for women to conceive due to irregular ovulation and disrupted hormone levels. This can lead to frustration, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness as women struggle to manage their condition during such a time in their lives.
As such, women in their 30s must be aware of the symptoms of PCOS and seek appropriate medical care to manage their condition.
How To Address PCOS Symptoms
Manage Your Weight
Behavioral changes such as incorporating a healthy diet and regular exercise into daily routines are vital for managing weight, especially for women in their 30s who have PCOS. Regarding diet, prioritize whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These types of food can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. Aim for a combination of aerobic exercises such as walking or cycling and strength training to build muscle mass.
While it should not be seen as a stand-alone solution, medication can be a very helpful tool to combat the PCOS symptom of weight. This is because women with PCOS have an extra hard time managing weight compared to others, and a slower metabolism only exacerbates this difficulty.
As such, medication for PCOS weight loss includes metformin, which works by reducing insulin resistance. This helps regulate blood sugar levels and decrease cravings for high-carbohydrate foods. Another option would be GLP-1 medications. These work by delaying gastric emptying, reducing appetite, and promoting satiety. All of these medications lead to reduced food intake and, ultimately, weight loss, which makes managing PCOS easier.
In addressing the common symptom of infertility with PCOS, various treatment options are available to help women improve their chances of conceiving. One common approach is the use of ovulation-inducing medications such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole to stimulate egg production.
These medications can help regulate menstrual cycles and promote ovulation to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, especially for women in their 30s whose fertility is already declining. In fact, insulin-sensitizing drugs such as the aforementioned metformin may also be prescribed to address insulin resistance and improve fertility.
For women who do not respond to medication, assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be recommended. IVF involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a laboratory, and then transferring the embryos into the uterus. This method has been successful for many women with PCOS who struggle with infertility.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
Irregular menstrual cycles are a common and key characteristic of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects people with ovaries and often manifests with various symptoms related to the reproductive and endocrine systems.
The link between irregular menstrual cycles and PCOS is primarily associated with disturbances in hormonal balance, particularly involving insulin and androgens (male hormones).
Here’s how irregular menstrual cycles are related to PCOS:
- Ovulatory Dysfunction:
- In a typical menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg during ovulation. However, in individuals with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance disrupts the normal ovulatory process. Ovulation may not occur regularly, leading to irregular or absent menstrual cycles.
- PCOS is characterized by elevated levels of androgens, which are male hormones present in both males and females. Increased androgen levels can interfere with the regular development and maturation of ovarian follicles, impacting the release of eggs and the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
- Insulin Resistance:
- Many individuals with PCOS also experience insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin. Insulin resistance can contribute to an overproduction of insulin, which, in turn, stimulates the ovaries to produce more androgens. The resulting hormonal imbalance can disrupt the menstrual cycle.
- Anovulation and Cycle Length Variability:
- Anovulation, the absence of ovulation, is common in PCOS. Without regular ovulation, the normal hormonal fluctuations that regulate the menstrual cycle are disrupted. This can lead to unpredictable and variable cycle lengths.
- Endometrial Changes:
- Irregular menstrual cycles in PCOS can also affect the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Prolonged exposure to estrogen without regular progesterone production (due to irregular ovulation) can lead to abnormal endometrial growth, potentially increasing the risk of endometrial hyperplasia or cancer in the long term.
It’s important to note that while irregular menstrual cycles are a common symptom of PCOS, not all individuals with irregular cycles have PCOS, and not all individuals with PCOS experience the same menstrual irregularities. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of clinical and laboratory assessments, including the presence of specific symptoms, hormonal imbalances, and ovarian ultrasound findings.
Management of irregular menstrual cycles in PCOS often involves lifestyle modifications, hormonal contraceptives to regulate cycles, and, in cases where fertility is a concern, medications to induce ovulation. Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and may include a combination of medical, nutritional, and lifestyle interventions. Regular monitoring and communication with healthcare providers are crucial for effective management of PCOS-related symptoms.
If You Have Concerns With Your PCOS in Your 30s
Speak to your doctor and find a care team who is willing to listen to and understand your symtoms and body. You are worth the extra care and the effort!