While we get to skip menstrual cramps and all the hassle of our monthly bleeding, missed periods are not something to be thankful for. Instead, treat it as your body alarming you that something might be of concern down there.
What is PCOS?
A common health condition behind irregular menstrual cycles is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS for short. PCOS is a hormonal disorder mainly from insulin resistance affecting the reproductive system with a constellation of symptoms. This affects 5-15% of women of childbearing age and could cause multiple health risks later on. There is no one cause for PCOS, so women may have varying reasons for getting diagnosed with it. Likewise, treatment plans differ based on the person’s symptoms and health goals. Regardless, it is important to notice early signs of PCOS, to prevent health risks from developing.
Early signs and diagnosis of PCOS
PCOS is clinically diagnosed by an OBGYN with supporting evidence from laboratory tests such as a combination of a blood hormone and sugar levels test, a physical exam, a medical history review, and an ultrasound of the ovaries.
But what are the telltale signs to see before you visit your doctor?
PCOS is characterized by having at least 2 of the following: polycystic ovaries, abnormal bleeding pattern, and hyperandrogenism with the exclusion of organic diseases. The first two are often evident through irregular periods and sudden changes in the menstrual cycle. Let’s say it takes you 35 days or more to get your period or your period suddenly becomes heavier or longer than usual, these are signs to look out for PCOS.
Since periods can sometimes be erratic, it is not as easy to tell whether you are developing PCOS. Unless you’re tracking your period, chances are you won’t really remember how long your cycles are, and whether or not you’re past your expected period time frame. This is why in monitoring this symptom, period tracking may be beneficial.
Apart from irregular periods, some signs of PCOS are associated with hyperandrogenism, a symptom creating excess male hormones. With that, women with PCOS may have excessive hair growth on their faces and other areas where men usually have excessive hair. Increased androgen levels could also be the reason why some women with PCOS develop acne and even male pattern balding despite excessive unwanted hair.
Weight gain and difficulty in losing weight may also be a sign but is not a key determinant in PCOS diagnosis. Many women struggle with this symptom, but with personalized treatment from your OBGYN and a change in lifestyle, you can overcome weight concerns associated with PCOS.
PCOS may be determined with a combination of the symptoms mentioned above. Since it is diagnosed when two of the three mentioned symptoms are present, it is possible that one can have PCOS with the absence of factors such as acne, as this is caused by hyperandrogenism and not necessarily PCOS. PCOS also has 4 subtypes with a combination of any of the three symptoms or all of three.
PCOS and pregnancy
When left untreated, PCOS can cause more complex issues such as difficulty conceiving. In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility among women, but that doesn’t mean it’s over for you. Many treatment plans increase success rates of conceiving even with PCOS. It’s crucial to be patient and continue consulting your doctor, as it is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to PCOS. Fertility management may require switching PCOS treatment plans to find the most appropriate one for your lifestyle and goals.
Let’s say you successfully conceive with PCOS, you might also need extra care during pregnancy. PCOS during pregnancy may also bring in some risks such as hypertension and gestational diabetes. You may reduce your risk of complications by regularly consulting and screening with your doctor to ensure the well-being of you and your baby.
As for those who do not wish to conceive, PCOS does not mark you safe from pregnancy. Your body can still ovulate even with PCOS, so it is still best to use contraception if you intend to not get pregnant.
Aside from infertility and pregnancy issues, PCOS may lead to other health complications when left untreated. This includes diabetes due to insulin resistance, heart attack, stroke, and difficulty breathing while asleep. Women who are obese might experience these symptoms worse. It is crucial to consult your OBGYN once you see potential symptoms of PCOS as early as possible to avoid these health risks.
PCOS treatment may vary from person to person, but the mainstay treatment for PCOS is lifestyle modification. This includes eating a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and limited consumption of unhealthy and processed foods. It is also important that you abide by a fitness training program and commit to physical activity that works for your lifestyle. Starting with light exercise is better than going hard and giving up after day 1!
Now you might be wondering––If you stop experiencing symptoms, does that mean you no longer have PCOS? The quick answer is no. PCOS may be a life-long condition, but treatment plans alleviate the health risks that come with it. We understand that it may require a lot from your busy schedules, so let us offer a helping hand in managing PCOS with you.
We streamlined everything that you need in our PCOS Health Package. Through this, we provide you with a holistic and personalized diagnosis plan which includes multiple consultations with our OBGYNs and all necessary tests to detect PCOS. We also offer services that could help with fertility, diet plans, and fitness training.