I’ve been thinking quite a bit about PCOS lately, as a number of new women with this condition have joined my Facebook group. Since I don’t have PCOS, I never thought much about it until I became a fertility coach. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with PCOS or have been living with it for years, here’s a list of the Top 10 things you should know about this condition.
- PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is characterized by an imbalance of sex hormones, which causes enlarged ovaries. Sometimes this also causes growth of an abnormal amount of small cysts (benign masses) on the ovaries
- At its core, PCOS is a hormonal disorder, and it’s the most common one in women of childbearing age. It affects about 10 million women worldwide. So if you have it, know that you’re not alone!
- Women with PCOS tend to produce more male hormones than women without the condition. If you have PCOS, your ovulation can be affected you may or may not ovulate in any given cycle, your cycles can be very irregular, and as a result, you could go for long stretches without having a period.
- PCOS is the leading cause of ovulatory issues in women. I’ve shared with you before that issues with ovulation are the number one cause of female infertility. This makes PCOS a key contributor to female infertility, if not the single largest factor.
- Having cysts on your ovaries doesn’t necessarily mean you have PCOS. Ovarian cysts are actually common for all women. What differentiates regular ovarian cysts from PCOS is that PCOS also includes the element of hormonal imbalance. Difficulty getting pregnant is a surefire symptom of PCOS. Other symptoms include irregular periods, weight gain, excessive acne and excessive hair growth. PCOS can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
- PCOS is linked to diabetes. In fact, PCOS has been sometimes referred to as “the cousin of diabetes.” Both PCOS and diabetes are linked to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes the body to produce high amounts of insulin, which for some women, stimulates the production of male hormones such as is found in women with PCOS. Research has consistently shown that women with PCOS are more likely to develop both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
- PCOS has no cure but it can be treated. The most common treatment protocols involve lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes include: weight management through diet and exercise, getting adequate sleep, and minimizing exposure to harmful toxins. Medications like metformin help manage blood sugar levels. All of these things can help keep your hormone levels in check.
- Keeping an ideal body weight is one of the most effective ways to manage PCOS. In fact, if you’re overweight, just losing 5% of your body weight can restore your ovulation, manage your other PCOS symptoms, and help you conceive.
- It’s always important to watch your diet and make sure you’re not eating too much sugar. This helps you keep your insulin levels in check, which is so important both for managing PCOS and reducing your risk of developing diabetes. A balanced, whole-foods diet consisting of whole fruits, whole vegetables including lots of leafy greens, whole grains, and healthy fats, along with minimal amounts of refined and processed foods, sugars and trans fats is essential.
- Just because you have PCOS doesn’t mean you ARE PCOS! Have PCOS doesn’t define you, and it does NOT mean that you won’t be able to get pregnant and have a baby! Lots of women with this condition are able to become mothers. Keeping your goal to have a baby in mind, work with your doctor on an appropriate treatment plan for you.
If you think you have PCOS, go to your doctor and find out for sure. If you have recently discovered that you have PCOS and are feeling overwhelmed, it’s a great idea to talk with your doctor about managing your condition. You can also talk with other experts, including a nutrition and fertility coach, to help you learn to live with PCOS, get some relief, and keep you on track for achieving your dream of getting pregnant and becoming a mother.
To your health and fertility,
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