One of the most common health issues that women in the reproductive age (18-45 years of age) face across world is PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovaries Syndrome). It affects ~ 116 million women worldwide as per WHO records in 2012.
In many cases, the condition remains undiagnosed for years. The Syndrome can show from no symptom to multiple symptoms.
Here are the most common symptoms to watch out for:
Irregular, absent or abnormal menstruation
The duration between consecutive periods could constantly vary, the flow could be very heavy or minimal or one could even go without periods for months at stretch!
- Unexplained weight gain: PCOS leads to increased insulin resistance in body which means whatever you eat gets converted to fat, causing weight gain although your diet has not increased making you wonder why!
- Hair growth: PCOS leads to increased production of testosterone in body thus leading to emergence of ‘male-like’ features. One of the most evident being the growth of facial hair or hair growth on chest and back
- Acne: Due to increased production of Testosterone, there is an increased sebum production, leading to clogged pores, giving birth to much dreaded problem ladies, acne!
Other symptoms linked with PCOS could be hair fall, hair thinning, difficulty to conceive and depression.
So, if you think you could have PCOS or know someone who might be suffering from this condition, stay put.
So, what exactly is PCOS and how to get it diagnosed?
In simple terms, PCOS is caused by a hormonal imbalance due to which the ovaries of a female produce higher than the usual amount of male hormone. The ovaries may develop numerous small follicles (collection of fluid) and hence they fail to release eggs, ultimately leading to irregular menstrual cycle and difficulty in getting pregnant.
If you have any of the above symptoms, you should visit a gynaecologist. They’ll most likely order blood work and get a hormone profile done to confirm the findings. In many cases, an Ultrasound (Pelvis) is ordered as well to check on what’s happening with the ovaries!
Now, you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, so what next?
Common questions that might be running through your mind are
- Will I be able to lead a normal life?
- Will I be able to have children?
The answer to the above questions is a resounding Yes
And I say this from my personal experience. I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 16! I’ve always had issues with losing the extra weight, dealing with the un-invited guest ‘the acne’ and my periods were always irregular and painful. But guess what, I have been maintaining a healthy weight for quite some time now and I am a proud mother of a 3 year old son. If I can live a normal life with PCOS, so can you.
Here’s how you can manage the symptoms of PCOS (unfortunately there’s no cure at present):
- Weight Loss: It’s believed that losing 10% of your current weight helps in a remarkable improvement in PCOS symptoms. Unfortunately, PCOS and weight gain form a vicious cycle. The PCOS makes the weight loss very difficult due to the increased insulin resistance. On the other hand, the heavier you become, the severe the PCOS symptoms gets. To break this cycle and to achieve success , persistence is required through
- Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is very important. It’s important to include complex carbohydrates (instead of the simple ones) in your diet. Break down your 3 main meals into 6 smaller meals allowing time for digestion. Get rid of sugars, aerated beverages, packaged food and instead include fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably seasonal).
- Active lifestyle: It is extremely important to perform some moderate level of exercise for 45 minutes every day. Be it a brisk walk, a jog , gymming, swimming or dance but you have to get out of bed and get going to conquer this lifestyle disease to get the best out of yourself. During your day also, try to take small walks after each meal, try to stand wherever possible so can burn more calories to help with the weight loss.
- Medication : This totally depends on your gynaecologist’s point of view but some medications do help with the weight loss. These medications are the same as used to treat Type 2 diabetes (remember the insulin resistance PCOS produces?). For me, this continued until 20 weeks of pregnancy! To manage acne and to regulate menstrual cycle, some gynaecologists also prescribe contraceptive pills for a certain period of time (unless you’re trying to get pregnant) and it works wonders. Do consult with your doctor before you start taking any medication as each body is different and every medicine does have a side effect.
- Persistence and will power: These are as important as the above two in managing this lifestyle disease. It’s easy to get disheartened and give up when you don’t see the desired results immediately. But trust me, persistence and will power are the keys to overcome PCOS. For us, results such as weight loss take a longer time to show but once they show, you’ll feel proud of yourself.
So get up, chin up and be ready to face the monster called PCOS head on with the above suggested tips. If you’ve got any more suggestions, do leave them in the comments section. For expert advice, do consult your gynaecologist.