What to know about one of the common disorders that can affect your period
What is PCOS
PCOS is the common acronym for the hormonal disorder Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. It’s extremely common among women with upwards of 200,000 cases per year in the United States alone, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, PCOS doesn’t have a known cure and those who suffer from it will have to live with it continually. BUT don’t be alarmed, there is good news! If you have PCOS you are not alone, symptoms can be treated, you can still get pregnant and carry children, and there are ways to help balance your hormones naturally so that symptoms can ease up.
Causes of PCOS
Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, experts believe there are several factors that play a role. These factors can be a combination of both genetic and environmental. Since PCOS is a hormone imbalance, there are a couple of hormones that experts think play the biggest role.
- Androgens - these are sometimes called the “male hormones” in the body that are found to be higher in many women with PCOS. When Androgen levels are high, the ovaries can be inhibited from releasing the egg during the menstrual cycle. When ovulation doesn’t occur it can cause a lot of the common symptoms seen in PCOS that we will talk about a little later.
- Insulin - many women with PCOS have high levels of insulin in their blood. Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, especially those struggling with obesity or have a family history of diabetes.
Common signs and symptoms of PCOS
Although PCOS can become apparent any time after puberty, most women find out that they have PCOS when trying to get pregnant or during their 20s and 30s after symptoms start to become more prevalent. Between 5-10% of women between the ages of 15-44 are diagnosed with PCOS.
Due to the hormone imbalances that come along with PCOS, these are some of the most common symptoms that come along with the syndrome:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Hair growth
- Darkening of skin
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- High testosterone levels
- Trouble conceiving
What you can do if you’re struggling with symptoms of PCOS
As we mentioned, there is no known cure for PCOS but there are a variety of things you can do to help treat some of the common symptoms. The most common symptom is an irregular period. If you haven’t already and think you have PCOS, consult your doctor or healthcare provider first. If you have irregular periods due to PCOS, your healthcare provider will most likely recommend regularizing your period with some form of birth control (the easiest option is a birth control pill). If you’re trying to get pregnant, you can get hormone treatment to help increase fertility. You can definitely still get pregnant and have a successful and healthy pregnancy if you have PCOS!
Many women also struggle with excess hair growth on their faces, necks and back. If you’re able to balance your hormones with the help of your physician it can really help with the excess hair. If that doesn’t help, options like laser hair removal can be a great and safe way to reduce hair.
For some natural ways to help alleviate some of the symptoms, experts recommend getting into a good fitness routine and potentially augmenting your diet. Exercise can sometimes help regulate periods and also help combat weight gain that can sometimes come along with PCOS.
Here are some great resources if you’re trying to up your at-home fitness game.
On top of working out more, balancing your diet and adding natural supplements to your routine can be really helpful. Adding high-fiber veggies, lean protein, and anti-inflammatory foods are among the top things to consider when taking a look at your diet with PCOS.
If you have more questions, there are a lot of in-depth resources to check out in addition to doing Q and As with your healthcare provider.