September is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month, and we’re shedding light on this hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 10 women during their childbearing years. Despite its prevalence, PCOS often goes undiagnosed due to its mild or seemingly unrelated symptoms. Test your knowledge of PCOS by using the flashcards below, and see if you can ace the PCOS Pop Quiz by decoding fact from fiction.
Women diagnosed with PCOS can’t have children.
MYTH: While it’s true that PCOS disrupts normal menstrual cycles and ovulation, making it more difficult to get pregnant, it’s not impossible. Some women with PCOS can conceive naturally, while others may require the assistance of fertility treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). A recommended first step is ensuring a healthy weight through diet and exercise, which may help to improve the regularity of your cycle. Wherever you are in your journey, you shouldn’t give up hope on getting pregnant if you have PCOS!
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for other medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
FACT: Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, meaning their bodies do not use insulin effectively, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, focus your diet on fiber-rich and low-glycemic-index foods – think whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, low-carb foods – that won’t cause a spike in blood sugar. Diet, combined with regular exercise, can help in controlling insulin levels, promoting weight loss, and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for women with PCOS.
An irregular menstrual cycle means you have PCOS.
MYTH: There are many reasons why you might experience an irregular period, aside from PCOS. Other lifestyle changes like increased stress, severe weight loss, or weight gain could lead to irregular periods. Medical conditions like uterine fibroids or endometriosis can also cause abnormal menstruation. It’s best to consult with a physician to determine the underlying cause.
All women with PCOS will experience weight gain.
MYTH: No two women will experience PCOS in exactly the same way. The symptoms and severity can be experienced differently by everyone. Symptoms can range from acne, to irregular periods, mood swings, difficultly losing weight, and excessive hair growth. Because symptoms can be so varied, PCOS may often go undiagnosed. Your provider will want to perform a medical evaluation including possible blood tests and an ultrasound to be sure.
FACT: While there is no official cure for PCOS, there are treatments that can help. A combination birth control may be prescribed to help regulate your menstrual cycle. Other treatments like hormone shots or insulin-regulating medications may be prescribed to help with ovulation. Prescription creams (i.e., depilatories) or electrolysis can also help in treating unwanted hair growth. As always, a healthy diet and exercise are also recommended in combination with treatment to ensure best results.