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  • Writer's pictureKirsten Smith

Everything You Need to Know About PCOS

PCOS, also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, is one of the most common hormone disorders in the world. In the U.S. around five to six million women deal with PCOS. The catch is that most people don’t know they are dealing with this disorder.

While health care has improved over the years, many women with PCOS are overlooked by doctors and other health care professionals. Part of this has to do with the difficulty in diagnosing this disorder. Other times women simply aren’t taken seriously when they bring up their symptoms.

That’s why I’m writing this blog today! I want to bring awareness to this topic and help women get the help they need. Living with PCOS isn’t easy, but there are ways you can manage your symptoms and improve your health. Still, you need to know what to look out for and what treatments might help you, this way you can start talking to your doctor.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a hormone disorder that usually affects women between the ages of 15-44. I’ve looked online for the exact causes of PCOS, but they are still unknown. Scientists have only recently begun studying PCOS and there is a lot to uncover with this disorder.

We do know that issues with your ovaries are one of the main reasons PCOS symptoms start.

Ovaries help produce the hormones estrogen and androgen. Women tend to have higher estrogen levels and men have higher androgen levels. With PCOS, our ovaries don’t function normally and produce extra male hormones (androgen).

So, what does this mean for you? With higher androgen levels, you could be dealing with a range of health issues. This includes skipped periods and cysts that form on your ovaries when your period does not happen regularly.

Common Symptoms of PCOS

There are a range of symptoms associated with PCOS. Each woman will experience this disorder in a different way. I suggest looking out for these common symptoms so you can start looking into treatment options.

PCOS Symptoms to Look Out For:

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycle: This is the main symptom of PCOS and is seen in most cases. You might only have eight to ten periods a year or no period at all.

  • Weight Gain: Because of your hormonal imbalance you could gain weight and have a hard time losing weight.

  • Heavy Periods: When you do get your period, it could be heavy and uncomfortable.

  • Excess Hair Growth: With higher levels of male hormone you might notice extra hair growth on your back, face, stomach, and even your chest.

  • Acne: Many women also complain about oily skin and acne.

  • Mental Health Issues: Dealing with these symptoms can cause depression and anxiety. The hormonal balance can also make it harder to control your emotions.

  • Other Health Issues: Like sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, infertility issues, and metabolic syndrome.

Treatments for PCOS

Many of us want to find a cure for PCOS, but this doesn’t exist yet. Until more research is done, we’ll have to use known treatments to live with this disorder. Some possible treatments that you can look into include:

  • Lifestyle Changes: This includes eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting more exercise.

  • Birth Control: This can help normalize your hormone levels and improve PCOS symptoms.

  • Metformin: Helps stabilize your blood sugar level and keeps your periods more regular.

  • Surgery: As a last resort, doctors can perform surgery and laser holes in the ovaries to return them to normal ovulation.

Coping With PCOS: A Personal Story

Recently, I got the chance to discuss PCOS with my niece. Since she was diagnosed with this disorder at a young age, I thought she was the perfect person to talk to!

While I haven’t dealt with PCOS personally, we both think it’s important to hear from women who are struggling. This way we can bring more awareness to PCOS and its effects!

I’ll be sharing her experience below and include some of the questions I asked her about PCOS and how she copes with it.

What’s it Like Having PCOS?

As we began talking, my niece explained that living with PCOS has been a real struggle. Over the years, she’s had extremely irregular cycles to the point that she’s even gone eight months without one. Not knowing when her period will show up is stressful.

Adding to this, she said that she’s had to deal with a lot of other PCOS symptoms that affect her quality of life and ability to get things done. Because of PCOS, she’s felt tired all of the time, had uncontrollable mood swings, and had a decreased sex drive.

How Do You Manage Your PCOS Symptoms?

For a while, she managed these symptoms pretty successfully. Her doctor put her on birth control and metformin to treat it but she has stopped using both, as she wanted to try a treatment that had fewer side effects.

Now, she actually takes a supplement called inositol that works pretty well. It’s similar to metformin but without all the side effects. Another natural treatment she’s been trying out is related to her diet.

Health experts recommend going on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Cutting out dairy and gluten has really helped her, but understandably it’s been challenging cutting these foods out of her life entirely. She’s doing her best to eat healthy and have a more balanced diet to make her symptoms easier to manage.

How Has PCOS Affected Your Mental Health?

Mental health is a huge component of our health, and unfortunately, PCOS can have a major impact on women’s mood and mental well-being. My niece agreed with me and said one of her biggest issues with PCOS has been her struggle with anxiety and depression.

Even though she’s been able to find treatment options that work for her, there are still other difficulties that she’s had to deal with as a woman with PCOS. Specifically, knowing that PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility really affected her mental health.

Although a lot of women are able to get pregnant with no problem with PCOS, there is always that lingering fear that something could go wrong. Many women with PCOS experience depression and anxiety at the thought of not being able to conceive. She also had this experience and worried about this for years.

Making things harder, women with PCOS are also more likely to face anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and during their cycles. So, this is something else that she’s learned to cope with over the years.

How Have You Been Working to Improve Your Mental Health?

For a long time, she didn’t know how to deal with this aspect of PCOS. Now she’s taking steps to learn more about her condition every day. Like many women, she can be hard on herself about it. That’s why she’s been trying to move toward a more empathetic and productive mindset.

Final Thoughts on PCOS

PCOS doesn’t have to stop you from living your life! In fact, many people are hopeful about the future and the efforts healthcare professionals are making to find out more about this disorder.

The public is becoming more aware of PCOS as a health issue. As we share what we know, we can all benefit. So, feel free to comment below about your own PCOS story. I’d love to hear from you!

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