Polycystic ovary syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS, is characterized by hormonal imbalance in the reproductive system. It is one of the most common disorders to affect women. In women who have this disorder, their ovaries might not be released during ovulation like someone who has a normally functioning reproductive system. PCOS is mainly known for ovarian cysts since cysts are caused by reproductive hormone imbalances. However, not everyone who has PCOS gets cysts. Other symptoms include weight gain, cystic acne, and irregular periods. If you get at least two symptoms of PCOS, your doctor might give you a physical to test your hormonal levels.
PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility. In fact, most women find out that they have PCOS when they are trying to get pregnant, according to the Office on Women's Health. Since the ovaries are not released during ovulation in women with PCOS, it could greatly reduce their chance of getting pregnant. Women who have PCOS must regulate their period and start ovulating before they can conceive. This can be done with a combination of medication, diet, exercise, supplements, and herbs. Read more about PCOS and how you can manage and treat this disorder below.
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Doctors do not know the exact cause of PCOS. They believe that two factors, such as high levels of androgens and high levels of insulin, play a major role in PCOS, according to the Office of Women's Health. Androgens are known as “male hormones” because they cause several traits associated with men, such as increased hair growth, male-pattern baldness, and increased acne. All women have a few androgens but women who are diagnosed with PCOS have higher levels of androgens than women without PCOS. Many women who have PCOS have high levels of insulin because their bodies do not react normally to insulin. Women diagnosed with PCOS are more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes, especially when they are overweight or obese, do not exercise or eat healthy, or have family members with diabetes.
Women who have PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese than women who don't have PCOS. In fact, 80% of women who have PCOS are overweight or obese, according to Endocrine Web. In comparison, 67% of women are either overweight or obese in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases. Eating a low-calorie diet can help decrease insulin resistance, regulate your period, and decrease other PCOS related complications, according to Healthline. Exercise can also help treat complications of PCOS, according to Healthline. Experts recommend low-impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, swimming, and aerobics for longer periods of time and high-intensity interval training and long-distance running.
Since PCOS is a hormonal issue in your reproductive system, there is no specific test to determine whether you have PCOS or not. If you feel like you may have PCOS, you should visit your doctor to discuss your medical history, according to Mayo Clinic. Your doctor will discuss specific issues, such as your menstrual cycle and weight gain. If your doctor has concerns, they will give you a physical exam. This exam will check for physical symptoms of PCOS, such as cystic acne, insulin resistance, and excessive hair growth. If you exhibit many of these symptoms, your doctor will send you to a specialist for additional tests.
All women are recommended to get their first pelvic exam at the age of 21 years old according to Healthline. After 21, women should get pelvic exams regularly. Many women get their first pelvic exam when they start birth control. However, women who are concerned about reproductive health issues, such as PCOS, ovarian cancer, and cysts, should get pelvic exams. A doctor performs a pelvic exam by observing the vagina and vulva. Then they insert a speculum into your vagina and swipe your cervix before taking out the speculum. Then, they manually inspect your vagina and vulva with gloves. This exam tests for irregularities in ovaries and the uterus and ovarian cancer.
When you get a blood test to determine whether or not you have PCOS, you mainly test for various hormones in your body according to Very Well Health. Follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone are made in the pituitary gland. Typically women with PCOS have higher levels of LH than FSH. Women with PCOS typically have higher levels of DHEA and testosterone, which are known as “male hormones”. Testing for other hormones such as 17-Hydroxyprogesterone, thyroid stimulating hormone, and prolactin are important as well. If you have high levels of these hormones, you might have other issues such as thyroid disease and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which can be mistaken for PCOS.
Usually, the first time you get an ultrasound is when you get pregnant with your first child. When you are testing for PCOS, a transvaginal ultrasound could check your ovaries and your uterus, according to Mayo Clinic. This ultrasound is typically used for pregnancies in the first trimester because they can spot very small changes and abnormalities. During a transvaginal ultrasound, a transducer is used to check your reproductive organs. Instead of checking for a baby, the ultrasound checks your reproductive organs for any cysts and abnormalities. If you have any cysts, doctors might need to schedule follow-up transvaginal ultrasounds to see if the cysts get any smaller on their own or if surgery is necessary.
If your doctor officially diagnoses you with PCOS, unfortunately, the tests do not end there. You might need to take more tests for PCOS complications, according to Mayo Clinic. First of all, you would need to take periodic checks for blood pressure, glucose tolerance, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. This is because PCOS could cause type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and abnormal triglyceride levels. They also do screenings for depression and anxiety and for obstructive sleep apnea because people with PCOS are more prone to all of these conditions.
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Unfortunately, PCOS does not have a cure. This is why you should watch out for products that will claim that they will cure PCOS or provide instant results, according to Healthline. Many supplements and herbs can help reduce symptoms of PCOS. However, no herb or supplement has been proven to completely eliminate all symptoms of PCOS. Companies claim to “cure all” as a marketing technique for its customers. People with PCOS should also watch out for progestin, a medication that is typically found in birth control pills. Since this is used to prevent pregnancy, it can make it harder for people with PCOS to become pregnant later on.
When you are diagnosed with PCOS, one of the first things that you would do is to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan for the disorder. Often these treatment plans are a combination of medical remedies, such as medications and surgery, and more holistic remedies, such as diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and herbs and supplements. If you are planning on taking alternative therapy to treat your PCOS, you must check with your doctor first. This is because some alternative therapy could hinder a woman's fertility instead of boosting it. Some of these therapies can also cause other complications.
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Women who want to treat PCOS symptoms can go on hormonal birth control. Hormonal birth control methods include the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, and the IUD. It is recommended for people with PCOS to take birth control with estrogen and progesterone because these hormones help regulate common PCOS symptoms according to the Office on Women's Health. The benefits include regulating your menstrual cycle, lowering the risk of endometrial cancer, improving acne, and reducing hair on the face and the body. Women with PCOS can also take anti-androgen medicine to reduce hair loss in the scalp, hair growth on the face and body and acne. They can also take Metformin to treat type 2 diabetes and other PCOS symptoms, such as weight gain and high cholesterol.
According to the Office on Women's Health, between 5 to 10 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have PCOS in the United States. That is as many as 5 million women in total. Many women are diagnosed with PCOS when they are in their 20s and their 30s. However, they could have had it all along but found out after trying to conceive. Women develop PCOS regardless of other factors such as race and ethnicity. Unfortunately, less than 50% of people are properly diagnosed with PCOS, according to the PCOS Foundation. This means that so many more people may have PCOS and not know about it.
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Infertility is a major cause of PCOS. However, if you have PCOS, it does not mean that it is impossible for you to get pregnant. Fortunately, PCOS is one of the most treatable causes of infertility according to the Office on Women's Health. This means that if you find out that you have PCOS earlier into trying to conceive, you can treat symptoms and go on to getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. You can discuss medications and supplements that will help you conceive with your doctor. You can also download a Fertility Tracker app on your smartphone to help track your fertile days to help regulate your period and ovulation.
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If you had problems conceiving, it feels so good to finally be pregnant after months or even years of trying. But if you have PCOS, the journey does not end after you see that positive pregnancy test. According to the Office on Women's Health, pregnant women with PCOS could face a multitude of health problems. Women who have PCOS have a higher risk of miscarrying. They are also more likely to develop pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. They are also more likely to give birth via c-section. Children of moms with PCOS are also at risk. They are more likely to weigh more at birth and to spend time in the NICU than babies born to mothers without PCOS.
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Celebrities have access to the top dietitians, doctors, surgeons, and personal chefs. However, they still suffer from PCOS like everyday people. Even though Victoria Beckham had three children previously with her husband, soccer star, David Beckham, her PCOS caused her to struggle with conceiving a fourth child, according to Now Magazine. Fortunately, she was able to have a fourth child, a daughter named Harper, in 2011. Jillian Michaels is known for being super fit on the reality TV show, The Biggest Loser. But she suffered from PCOS as a teenager. She has a PCOS health plan on her website to help her followers manage their PCOS symptoms.
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Many people with PCOS develop it when they start going through puberty. However, they mistake PCOS symptoms, such as severe acne, irregular periods, and increased weight gain for normal signs of puberty. However, some people develop PCOS later in their life according to the Office on Women's Health. Even if they had children easily in the past, they can develop PCOS later in their life and start to have a problem conceiving. They can also mistake the same symptoms of PCOS as a sign that menopause is coming soon. This is why it is important to go to your gynecologist to take pelvic exams and pap smears yearly to make sure that your reproductive system is healthy.
Anyone can have or develop PCOS regardless of race, ethnicity, or background. However, you are more likely to develop PCOS if you are obese or you have a family history of PCOS according to the Office on Women's Health. If you are obese, you can experience issues that are associated with PCOS, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and infertility due to hormonal changes. A family history of PCOS could mean that you can experience similar hormonal changes earlier or later in life. If you are obese, it is important for you to manage your weight to prevent hormonal changes such as PCOS. If you have family members with PCOS, be proactive about your reproductive health by getting yearly pap smears and pelvic exams.
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PCOS can cause major health issues in women between the age of 15 and 44. It can cause metabolic disorder, which includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol, according to Mayo Clinic. This increases your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. You can also develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is severe liver inflammation caused by fat acquisition in the liver. You can also develop abnormal uterine bleeding and cancer of the uterine lining from irregular periods. Pregnancy-related symptoms include gestational diabetes, infertility, high blood pressure, miscarriage, and premature birth. Other symptoms include sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
As women get closer to menopause, usually their PCOS symptoms become less intense according to the Office on Women's Health. Women with PCOS get more regular periods when they are about to experience menopause. Unfortunately, the hormonal changes do not go away due to age, so women who are about to experience menopause still experience severe acne, increased facial and body hair, and male patterned baldness. As well, health problems that are caused by PCOS, such as diabetes, stroke, and heart attack, are more likely to occur in older women. Therefore it is especially important to manage PCOS when you are younger so that you cannot experience health problems when you get older.
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Your doctor probably told you about medications, diets, and exercises that can help manage PCOS symptoms. But did you know that many supplements can decrease symptoms of PCOS? According to Healthline, turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin that can help manage PCOS. Curcumin helps manage PCOS by decreasing insulin resistance and decreasing inflammation. Zinc can boost fertility, improve your immune system, and eliminate symptoms such as excessive hair growth and hair loss. Vitamin D helps your endocrine system. It is necessary for the diet of a woman with PCOS since they are often low in vitamin D. Vitamin D and calcium together helps improve irregular periods and boosts ovulation.
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Herbs can also help manage symptoms of PCOS, according to Healthline. Maca root is typically used to boost fertility and libido. It also balances hormones, lower cortisol levels, and treats depression. Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, also helps balance cortisol levels. This helps to decrease stress and other PCOS symptoms. Licorice root has a compound called glycyrrhizin, which helps decrease inflammation, metabolize sugar, and balance hormones. Other herbs that help treat PCOS symptoms include holy basil, which reduces blood sugar levels, prevent weight gain, and lower cortisol levels, chaste berry, which helps reduce symptoms of PMS and other reproductive issues, and Tribulus Terrestris, which stimulates ovulation, support healthy menstruation and decreases ovarian cysts.
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You probably heard of the hipster drink from your trendiest friend and even took a sip or two. But if you have PCOS, you have a reason to take part in the latest health trend. Kombucha helps manage PCOS because it is high in probiotics. Probiotics help to treat PCOS symptoms by reducing inflammation and regulating sex hormones, such as estrogen and androgen, according to Healthline. You can eat other probiotic food, such as kimchi, yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut, and some cheese. You can also take probiotic supplements instead if you are not keen on any of the food choices listed.
If you are experiencing PCOS complications and medications are not working for your symptoms, it might be time to take a visit to the homeopathic doctor. Acupuncture has many proven benefits on PCOS symptoms according to Healthline. Acupuncture causes increased blood flow to the ovaries, which causes both ovulation and regular periods to occur. It also reduces cortisol levels, which causes PCOS symptoms, such as excess facial and body hair and hair loss to decrease. It also helps you to lose weight, which balances your hormonal levels and decreases PCOS symptoms. Lastly, it causes your body to react normally to insulin, which regulates the body's hormones.
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It is important for you to use natural products since products that have harmful ingredients such as parabens can cause many types of cancer. But if you have PCOS, it is especially important to be wary of what you put in and on your body. You must especially avoid endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that block natural hormone response, according to Healthline. They often mimic female and male sex hormones, which cause confusion in your reproductive system. They also increase PCOS symptoms. Endocrine disruptors include dioxins, phthalates, pesticides, BPA, and glycol ethers. These chemicals are most often found in soaps and body washes, makeup, and canned and packaged foods.
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It is important for everyone to have a healthy sleep routine. However, it is even more important for women with PCOS to sleep well. Getting a good night's sleep can reduce stress, regulate cortisol, and balance your hormones, which is especially important in women with PCOS. It is also important because women who have PCOS are twice as likely to experience sleep disturbances, according to Healthline. Getting eight to ten hours of sleep a night, having a regular bedtime routine, and avoiding stimulants and rich, fatty foods before going to bed is absolutely essential for women who are struggling with PCOS.
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Unfortunately, in our daily life, stress is inevitable. Stress has negative effects on our bodies, including lowered immune response, breakouts, and anxiety. For women with PCOS, stress can have an even worse effect on their body. They can experience increased PCOS symptoms such as severe breakouts, hair loss, and missed periods. Even though you cannot fully avoid stress, you can reduce stress and control your response to it. Many ways to reduce stress include yoga, taking walks outside, and incorporating self-care into your weekly routine, according to Healthline. Getting adequate sleep and avoiding caffeine can help to prevent stress in the first place. Don't think that you can give up that daily cup of coffee? Avoid drinking coffee first thing in the morning or right before bed and limit your intake to one to two cups a day.