Menopause and Sickle Cell
Many women with sickle cell disease (SCD) worry about how their health will change when they reach menopause. While there is still much to learn about the relationship between SCD and menopause, we do know some things. SCD can affect your menopause symptoms and your risk of developing certain long-term health problems. Getting tips for managing your menopause symptoms can help you during this time in your life.1
What is menopause?
Menopause is the permanent end of menstrual cycles and fertility. It happens 12 months after your last period. Menopause can start in your 40s or 50s. In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51.2,3
During menopause, your ovaries stop making eggs and produce less estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate your menstrual cycle. So, when their levels drop, you no longer ovulate and cannot get pregnant.2,3
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The most common symptom leading up to menopause is a change in your menstrual cycle. Your periods may occur less often or be lighter than usual. You may also have other menopause symptoms, such as:2,3
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair and dry skin
Menopause symptoms can vary in severity from woman to woman. Some women have mild symptoms they barely notice, but others have a hard time with the change. There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for menopause. Do not be worried if your experience is different from what you expected.2,3
How does sickle cell impact menopause?
SCD is a blood disorder that is passed down in families. This disorder affects the red blood cells, which are normally round and flexible. In people with SCD, these cells become hard and shaped like crescents. This can cause a variety of problems, including pain, organ damage, and anemia.4
Women with SCD may experience menopause earlier than women without it. Their menopause symptoms may also be masked by their SCD symptoms. Some women with SCD may not be aware that they are entering menopause.1
SCD can also affect the ovaries. One 2019 study found that women with SCD produced less of an ovarian hormone called anti-Müllarian hormone (AMH). Low AMH levels can be a sign that the ovaries are producing fewer eggs and eggs that are harder to fertilize. This is called decreased ovarian reserve. It can lead to lower ovarian function and early-onset menopause.5
If you have SCD, talk to your doctor about how menopause may affect your health. Your doctor can help you manage symptoms and prevent complications.1
This or That
Has your menstrual cycles or menopause triggered a pain crisis?
Treating menopause and sickle cell
Treatment for menopause symptoms may be different for women with sickle cell disease. For example, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may not be recommended for women with SCD due to the risk of blood clots.1
There are a few things you can do at home to manage your menopause symptoms:6
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing if you get too warm. Avoid hot drinks, spicy foods, and hot baths or showers if these trigger hot flashes. Keep your home as cool as possible without triggering a crisis.
Move your body
Exercise can help with hot flashes, weight gain, mood changes, and sleep problems. It is also good for your overall health. Talk to your doctor about what type of exercise is right for you.
Stress can worsen menopause symptoms. To manage your stress, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. You may also want to avoid stressful situations if possible.
Get enough sleep
Sleep problems are common during menopause. To help manage them, establish a regular sleep schedule and create a calming bedtime routine. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can help with hot flashes, weight gain, and mood changes. Aim for plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars.
Because sickle cell disease is a lifelong condition, it can impact every stage of life, including menopause. Managing your menopause symptoms can help you stay as healthy as possible at this stage of life.1,4
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