PCOS is a complex hormonal condition that is diagnosed based on symptoms – not on a specific lab test that is “positive or negative” for the condition. It is diagnosed if a woman has two or more of the following symptoms:
- Signs of too much male hormone (excess dark hair growth on chin, cystic acne or elevated testosterone on blood tests)
- Menstrual cycles more than 35 days apart
- Enlarged ovaries on ultrasound
So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of misunderstandings about PCOS floating around so let’s see if we can shed some light on this distressing condition.
Myth 1 – PCOS is caused by your ovaries
PCOS is caused by a full body hormonal miscommunication – the actual polycystic ovaries are merely a symptom. There are many different metabolic issues going on that contribute to PCOS.
The brain sends the ovary mixed signals causing it to secrete excess male hormones, which affects the delicate fluctuations of the female hormone that triggers ovulation. At the same time, fat cells contribute to the problem by resisting insulin, triggering the body to make excess insulin when carbohydrates are eaten.
This insulin increase not only prompts the ovary to produce too much male hormone, but also causes weight gain. The ovaries can’t manage to ovulate because the hormones are all wrong.
Myth – 2 Women with PCOS are infertile
Women with PCOS can have difficulty getting pregnant, but the infertility associated with PCOS is often easy to treat. Women who have PCOS and are overweight can often begin to ovulate regularly with very modest weight loss of even 10% of their body weight.
Medication can also help; 50% of women with PCOS will conceive with an ovulation-inducing pill and again bioidentical progesterone has helped here too.
Myth- 3 PCOS causes pain
During a normal menstrual cycle, the chosen egg of the month begins to grow within a small follicle cyst on the ovary. When ovulation occurs, the egg escapes the cyst and goes to the fallopian tube, and its former cyst usually dissolves over time.
In PCOS the ovaries are trying to ovulate but because of the body’s confused hormones, the ovulation cyst gets stuck and is unable to fully develop to the point it can releaset the egg
This means the ovary becomes swollen with underdeveloped cysts which cause the ovaries to become enlarged, but the cysts do not usually rupture or cause pain.
Myth – 4 Women with PCOS are overweight
PCOS is often associated with obesity, but not always. At one time, PCOS was defined as having all three symptoms plus obesity, but we now recognize that there are different “types” of PCOS. You only need two of the three symptoms of PCOS to have the condition.
The treatment of PCOS is based on the sub-type and your goal: for some that is returning the menstrual cycle to normal, for others reducing the amount of male hormones and for women trying to get pregnant.
For overweight PCOS women, a low carbohydrate diet with regular exercise is recommended.
Myth – 5 PCOS patients have very high risk pregnancies
Since PCOS makes it challenging to get pregnant, some women are concerned it will also put them at high risk during pregnancy.
Once pregnant, PCOS patients are at an increased risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, but most go on to have normal pregnancies. They do not have an increased risk of miscarriage as previously thought.
Around 10% of women meet the criteria for PCOS worldwide and if you have symptoms don’t get discouraged by the myths. Instead, look at your hormone levels and take action to help this potentially distressing condition.
What Is PCOS?
What Causes PCOS