My journey with PCOS is a long one. It started way before I was officially diagnosed with it. But, I just want to break down PCOS and some of the things it can cause.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, avility to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. With PCOS, women typically have:
high levels of androgens.
missed or irregular periods
many small cysts in their ovaries.
About 1 in 10 women of childbearing age has PCOS. It can occur in girls as young as 11 years old. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder among women in their childbearing years, affecting 6%, or MILLIONS of women.
The cause of PCOS is unknown. Genes are thought to be one factor. Women with PCOS tend to have a mother or sister with PCOS. Insulin is thought to be another factor. For many women with PCOS their bodies have problems using insulin sot hat too much insulin is in thebody.
Some symptoms of PCOS:
infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods, and/or irregular bleeding
increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach,back, thumbs, or toes
acne, oily skin, or dandruff
weight gain or obesity
insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes
high blood pressure
male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
anxiety or depression
I would like to not that these symptoms will vary from person to person. You may be like me and have almost every symptom on the list. Or you may have very few symptoms.
Tragically, many physicians see PCOS as a "cosmetic" problem when young women complain of the symptoms. Many physicians do not realize that PCOS has far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences.
Basically with PCOS, the ovary doesn’t make all the hormones it needs for any eggs to fully matrue. Follicles may start to grow and build up fluid. But no one follicle becomes large enough. Instead, the follicles remain as cysts. These cysts also make male hormones, which also prevent ovulation.
The treatments for PCOS will vary. For women who aren’t trying to become pregnant birth control pills can control menstrual cycles, reduce male hormone levels, and help clear acne.
The diabetes medication Metformin or Glucophage has been found to help with PCOS symptoms, although it is not FDA-approved for this use. Abnormal hair growth will slow down, and ovulation may return afer a few months of use. Recent research has shown Metformin to have other positive effects, such as decreased body mass and improved cholesterol levels.
Lack of ovulation is usually the reason for fertility problems in women with PCOS. Several medications that stimulate ovulation can help.Clomid is usually the first choice thereapy to stimulate ovulation.
Lifestyle modification Keeping a healthy weight is the main way to manage PCOS. However, when I was trying to get pregnant it was un-nerving to have drs. continue to tell me, "if you just lost 5 pounds it would help."PCOS can be managed with diet. But, PCOS also makes it very hard to lose weight. Even if you are on a very strict diet, with PCOS, the weight just seems to keep holding on.
The list of health problems associated with PCOS is as awful as the list of symptoms:
More than 50% of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40
Women with PCOS have a four to seven times higher risk of heart attack than women of the same age without PCOS.
Women with PCOS are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
Women with PCOS have high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
The chance of getting endometrial cancer is another concern for women with PCOS.
PCOS doesn’t go away with pregnancy. There appears to be higher rates of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and premature delivery in women with PCOS. With the exception of gestational diabetes, I had all of the above. I suffered 3 miscarriages before I had a successful pregnancy with Lexi. Pregnancy induced high blood pressure eventually put me on hospital bedrest, and Lexi was born 4 weeks early, and spent 9 days in the NICU.
Possibly the worst thing I found while doing research for this post was a list of Women’s Health: State Rankings. The rankings are based on whether states have adopted 67 "key women’s health policies." The only one of these met by all the states is Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer. Only 3 states met more than half of these policy goals. My state-Oklahoma- ranks 47. That was an F ranking. Go HERE to see where your state ranks.
If you think someone you know could be suffering from PCOS, please forward this blog to them. I so wish someone would have told me about PCOS while I was trying to diagnose myself.