Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month upon us, we felt it imperative to discuss the medical condition considered to be one of the leading causes of infertility and a condition most commonly undiagnosed. PCOS is not a lifestyle illness – it is a diagnosed medical condition that can be debilitating. A person does not get PCOS because of their lifestyle. PCOS is a common chronic hormonal condition that causes hormone imbalances, irregular cycles, cysts in the ovaries, lack of ovulation, among other long-term health problems that affect physical and emotional wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization, PCOS affects an estimated 13-18% of individuals with uteruses who are of reproductive age. This is an alarming number. What’s even more unsettling is that there is no cure for PCOS and up to 70% of affected people will go undiagnosed worldwide. Due to a lack of awareness, education, and taboo around fertility conversations many people do not discuss their reproductive health and menstrual cycles with their families and friends. If you speak to someone of reproductive age you are likely to find out that they probably know someone affected by PCOS, they may have been diagnosed with PCOS, or they might think that they have PCOS but be undiagnosed.
Individuals who are not diagnosed and go untreated may be at higher risk for developing conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, obesity, gestational diabetes, and high cholesterol. The condition also puts people at risk of developing increased thickness of the uterine lining, uterine cancer, having a preterm delivery and preeclampsia, and a greater chance of having a miscarriage. Research indicates that early testing, diagnosis, and intervention of PCOS improves fertility preservation and prevents complications such as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, infertility, and cardiovascular issues later in life, especially in at-risk cases.
I might have PCOS
If you suspect that you may have PCOS meet with a medical doctor who specializes in hormonal disorders to discuss your concerns. They will check for symptoms, discuss your medical history, and discuss the regularity of menstrual cycle. Some of the common tests for PCOS might include a physical exam – such as blood pressure and a pelvic exam etc…, blood tests, and a pelvic ultrasound.
I’ve been Diagnosed with PCOS
It’s important to talk about this misunderstood condition and its challenges because it presents differently for everyone in ‘real life’ and is considered a lifelong condition.
If you or someone you know have received an early diagnosis of PCOS, this information may be helpful in navigating where to start and getting the support you need:
- Get a second opinion
- Determine and understand your condition and presenting symptoms
- Connect with a medical doctor who specializes in Gynecology and/or PCOS itself
- Find a supportive medical team who validate your concerns and align with your long-term goals
- Connect with a Fertility Doula who can support you throughout your journey
- Find out if the diagnosis was prompted because of Hyperandrogenism, Anovulation/Oligoovulation, or Polycystic Ovaries on an ultrasound so that an appropriate customized treatment and support plan can be created
- Get familiar with the concept of insulin resistance because there are a number of factors that contribute to high insulin in PCOS, and insulin resistance has been found to be one of the central factors of the condition
- Determine the major component of insulin resistance in your condition
- Get familiar with the long-term health considerations in PCOS
- Learn about other holistic health modalities such as a Naturopathic Doctor for example who can support your condition
- Explore which treatments will improve your individual symptoms
- Adjust your lifestyle to reduce the PCOS symptoms
What else can I do?
Alongside the goals of PCOS Awareness Month we can:
- increase awareness and education
- lobby for improved diagnosis and treatment of the disorder
- disseminate information on diagnosis and treatment
- hold agencies responsible for the improved quality of life and outcomes of those affected
- promote the need for research to advance understanding of PCOS: improved diagnosis, treatment and care options, and for a cure for PCOS
- acknowledge the struggles of those affected
- make PCOS a public health priority
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