By: Kate Davies
You would be hard pressed to find a woman who has never experienced the most “obvious” symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): irregular periods and weight gain. Fortunately for many, these are merely temporary issues caused by any number of health and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately for others, they can be signs of a bigger issue that leaves many women suffering silently.
September is PCOS Awareness Month and as we continue to learn more about the most common endocrine disorder found in women, it is important to remember who PCOS affects.
Who PCOS Affects
While PCOS affects about 10% of women, less than half ever receive a formal diagnosis—primarily, because symptoms can vary greatly and there is no definitive test to diagnose the condition. It can take on average 13 years for a women to receive a definitive diagnosis of PCOS and is often only discovered when they are unable to conceive. This challenge is caused by a hormonal imbalance that prevents eggs from maturing and releasing at the time of ovulation.
Tips and Tools for Success
Although there is currently no cure, and research into the causes and treatment of PCOS is still woefully limited, there are still many things women struggling with the condition can do to manage their symptoms.
The easiest place to start is with small lifestyle changes, aimed at reducing stress and increasing exercise. Things like walking, Zumba, or yoga are not just opportunities to get your body in motion, also they can help reduce stress levels—another way to help keep your symptoms in check. The right nutrition is also vital in controlling PCOS, particularly by reducing refined carbohydrates and sugar.
While research is lagging, resources for women with PCOS have begun to increase in recent years. Through online communities and social media platforms such as Instagram where the PCOS community is so supportive, “cysters” as they are often referred to, are able to connect and share their experiences and tools they use to monitor their condition. This includes medications such as metformin and clomid that work together to manage symptoms and stimulate ovulation, and ovulation monitors like OvuSense, which is designed specifically for women with irregular cycles.
Understanding your body and what does and does not work for you is key, whether you are looking for a diagnosis, managing your condition, or trying to conceive.
PCOS ≠ Infertility
Whether you are trying to conceive now or hoping to start a family in the future, one of the most important things to remember is that PCOS is not an infertility diagnosis. Many women with the condition have successfully conceived, with varying degrees of difficulty along the way.
Conventional infertility treatments, like IVF and IUI, are certainly options for some women. However, because of their cost and complexity, many seek alternative solutions that are more manageable. Women may consider homeopathic or natural fertility treatments, such as acupuncture, reflexology, or herbal supplements, in the hopes of stimulating fertility and minimizing symptoms before having to turn to more involved procedures. Research into these alternative therapies is limited but there’s no doubt many women do notice significant benefits in terms of stress reduction and general wellbeing.
One of the best words to describe PCOS is complex: to diagnose, to treat, and to manage.
PCOS impacts women of all races and ethnicities, in various phases of their reproductive years. Whether you were diagnosed a teen, afraid of facial hair and weight gain, or as a woman in your 30s already facing the pressure of time in your quest to have a child, remember there are thousands of other women going through the same—although unique—journey. You are not alone.
Kate Davies is a Fertility Nurse Consultant, founder of Your Fertility Journey and the Fertility Nurse Advisor for the OvuSense Fertility Monitor. Kate is passionate about empowering women to understand their natural fertility and improve their fertility health to optimize their ability to conceive. When Kate isn’t consulting, you can find her indulging her other passion, recording podcasts with her co-host of The Fertility Podcast.