By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common diagnosis in women where there is an imbalance of hormone levels causing irregular periods and many other symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
Irregular menstrual periods
Excess hair growth on chin, chest, abdomen, thighs
Severe or stubborn acne, even in adult years
Patches of dark skin – also known as acanthosis nigricans
Multiple cysts on the ovaries determined by a trans-vaginal ultrasound
Although these are all common signs and symptoms, it is not necessary for you to display all of them in order to be diagnosed and treated for PCOS.
Those may be the common signs and symptoms, but there are other things that you may not have been told.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of female infertility – women with PCOS often experience irregular periods and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are infertile. It does indicate that we need to work together to balance the hormones and get you ovulating regularly again.
Insulin resistance may play a huge role with PCOS. Often the misconception about PCOS is that it is solely about the reproductive hormones – however, may studies have not shown that this is not the case. Insulin resistance can have a major impact on the regularity of your cycle, and impact the severity of the diagnosis. That being said, one of the major pharmaceutical medications that is prescribed for PCOS patients is metformin, which is a drug for diabetes management.
You may get “temporary PCOS” after stopping the birth control pill. In my practice, I’ve had patients who stopped the birth control pill and did not have a regular period again for months – and this may be diagnosed as temporary PCOS induced by the birth control pill. In this case, the patient’s periods before the birth control pill were normal but became irregular after stopping the pill, along with signs and symptoms such as acne, hair growth in unwanted areas, and increased LH/FSH ratio.
It’s not necessarily about the cysts on the ovaries, or even obesity! I had once told a patient after doing a thorough intake and assessment with blood work, that she had PCOS. She didn’t believe it because she said that she wasn’t overweight, and she also didn’t have any cysts on the ovaries. Believe it or not, those are not compulsory features of PCOS. You can very much be of normal weight and could also told that you have no cysts, but still have PCOS. This is due to the other diagnosing criteria of PCOS such as lack of a regular period and signs of increased testosterone (acne, hair growth).
You can absolutely get pregnant if you have been diagnosed with PCOS. It may take some time to unravel the complex layers of our body and determine how to balance hormone levels (including insulin and the reproductive hormones), but with the right guidance, pregnancy is not impossible. As long as there are no other major underlying conditions, a PCOS diagnosis should not be a dead-end to your fertility journey.
Some simple factors to consider when working with PCOS:
Reducing stress – chronic levels of stress causes hormone imbalances and may exacerbate symptoms of PCOS. This is especially important when addressing birth control pill-induced PCOS.
Exercise – exercise is important for everyone and especially when we are trying to balance hormone levels. That being said, it is important to recognize over-exercising. Excessive and intense workout regimes can actually suppress ovulation and worsen hormone imbalance. Aim for moderate exercise each day for at least 45 minutes.
Diet – it is important to incorporate healthy fats, fiber and protein in each of your meals to help balance your hormones. Undereating and overeating will both impact hormones and ovulation. Especially in PCOS, it is important to recognize foods that may worsen insulin resistance and glucose balance.
If you have signs and symptoms of PCOS or hormone imbalance, book an appointment (or a complimentary 15 minute meet and greet) to see how we can work together to get you feeling your best.
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