Let’s talk PCOS
A guy in my class told me to shave my mustache once. Another someone told me to not wear crop tops because I had hair on my belly and it looked gross. I used to get my face waxed where hair wasn’t even supposed to grow, and it hurt. It hurt so much that I would cry after that every time. Parlor vali didi would ask me, ” Aap razor to nahi use karte? Usse aise thick baal aate hain?” I used to answer at first but then after a while, I got tired and would just smile. Once, the “Didi” used a little too hot wax on my face and it burnt my skin, but I was okay with that too because all I wanted was to get rid of the hair.
I used to get acne. All over my face and they would hurt too. I spent thousands on buying herbal and God knows what sort of face washes and creams to help with the irritation. Unfortunately, washing my face ten times a day and changing my pillowcase almost every two days didn’t help.
Then there are mood swings, oh the mood swings. I would experience happiness, excitement, sadness, helplessness, madness, and all other emotions that you can name within five minutes. I wouldn’t understand the cause of my sadness and I would cry. Cry my eyes out. Turn on the tap in the washroom, so that no one else could hear me cry, because I didn’t know how to explain the reason, as there was none.
I started gaining weight, and no matter what I did, it wouldn’t get reduced. I got food cravings.
Then there would be pain. All the time. In my abdomen. Lower back. Before my period. During my period, I would miss my class and turn into a ball in my blanket and would wish to die instead of having that pain. It would persist after my periods too. Sometimes, I would bleed for 15 days, sometimes not at all. Sometimes it would be back in 10 days, sometimes it won’t arrive till 3 months.
For some reason, like not being educated about this issue, I never thought that all of this could be related.
I went to a dermatologist to get laser treatment for hair removal on my face. He told me it would cost about Rs 25,000 and that I should get my hormone profile done before that. I didn’t go through with any of that. It kept on happening for a long long time and I still never thought that all of this could be related.
I came to a medical college, I stopped getting my periods for 2 months. So, I decided to go to the gynecologist. She told me to get an ultrasound, and my testosterone levels checked, and there it was. The root of everything. She said I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, my androgens level( male hormones) were very high which would lead to my periods being irregular, super painful, male pattern hair growth, weight gain, etc. So, so many things, but I had stopped listening when I came to know that there was a reason for everything that I had been feeling and going through. It was a happy and sad moment for me. Finally, I knew that it wasn’t in my head.
She gave me hormonal pills which were basically contraceptives, so I started taking them for 21 days. Unfortunately, my problems didn’t end there. The pills have side effects. I got a bad stomach, loose motions, vomiting, and ended up dehydrated in the hospital. So, I stopped taking them. It still happens from time to time. They are regular, then they are not. There’s hair growth. There’s hair fall from my head. There’s pain. All the time. I try to lose my weight thrice a month. I start the workout and stop when the pain starts. It’s a vicious cycle.
So, this was my PCOS story. I’ve met other girls, who don’t have similar symptoms. It is different for everyone.
Let’s go through some myths and facts related to PCOS.
You have to have Poly Cystic Ovaries to have PCOS.
“Poly Cystic Ovarian syndrome” is a misnomer. Many women who have PCOS don’t have cysts on their ovaries, and having cysts doesn’t mean you have PCOS. To be diagnosed, a woman needs to fulfill only two of the three conditions: androgen excess (signs include hirsutism, acne, hair loss), irregular menstruation, or multiple follicles/cystic ovaries.
The abnormal hair growth or hirsutism means you have PCOS.
I’ve already mentioned the three criteria before, but again, some women with PCOS have abnormal growth, some don’t. Some women might have abnormal hair growth but not have PCOS.
PCOS makes you infertile.
It might get difficult to conceive if you have PCOS, because of the fluctuating hormonal level the ovaries’ ability to release an egg is affected, but still not impossible. It is possible with ART’s (assisted reproductive technologies) and naturally too. So, don’t be careless and don’t worry.
Everyone with PCOS is obese.
It’s more likely to be overweight than obese. Also, lean PCOS women are not common, but they do exist.
PCOS and PCOD are the same.
PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) is a condition where the ovaries release a lot of immature or partially-mature eggs which eventually turn into cysts. Whereas, In women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), the ovaries produce higher levels of androgen than usual, which interferes with the development and release of the eggs. Some of the eggs develop into cysts, which are the little sacs filled with liquid.
Talking about nature, PCOS is more dangerous as it isn’t basically a condition but a Syndrome of various symptoms, the cause of which is still unknown.
Losing weight is the same for a PCOS patient as for anyone else.
It isn’t the same. A PCOS patient might work out 10 times more than a normal person and eat everything right. It would still take longer for them to lose weight. However, doctors believe that losing up to 10% of body weight in overweight PCOS patients helps with reducing the symptoms.
You’ll know for sure if you have PCOS.
With common symptoms like acne, mood problems, and irregular periods, it can be easy to relate these up to other causes, like stress. That’s one reason why PCOS is often missed. More than 50% of women with PCOS are misdiagnosed.
Losing weight can cure PCOS.
It can only help with symptoms. It might not even do that sometimes.
Every woman with PCOS should go on hormonal, birth control pills.
Treatment for PCOS will largely depend on your end goal. If you want to get pregnant, you certainly won’t go on a birth control pill.
You should give up dairy if you have PCOS.
It is advised to reduce the intake of foods with a high glycemic index, but completely giving them up might lead to other types of deficiencies.
Here are some complications of PCOS that my doctor told me about and had me horrified, but then again, it’s better to know than to live in darkness.
Complications of PCOS can include:
Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
Miscarriage or premature birth
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes due to insulin resistance.
Depression, anxiety and eating disorders
Abnormal uterine bleeding
Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, and exercise.
It can also improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin, and reduce heart disease and diabetes risks.
30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three days a week can help women with PCOS lose weight. Losing weight with exercise also improves ovulation and insulin levels.
Other medical treatments include hormonal pills and anti-diabetic medication ( metformin). Surgical treatment includes ovarian drilling which is a procedure that makes tiny holes in the ovary with a laser or thin heated needle to restore normal ovulation.
- WHEN TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR?
See your doctor if:
You’ve missed periods and you’re not pregnant.
You have symptoms of PCOS, such as hair growth on your face and body.
You’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months but haven’t been successful.
You have symptoms of diabetes, such as excess thirst or hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss.
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