In today’s world, women of all ages are bombarded with abbreviations from every angle that seem to take over our lives—FB, JK, GPA. But your doctor may throw one at you that is nothing to LOL about. If you visit the doctor complaining of irregular or painful periods, infertility, acne or excessive hair growth, you may hear the acronym PCOS. This stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and this September is dedicated to raising awareness for one of the most common female endocrine disorders.
Between 5% and 10% of all women of childbearing age may have this hormone imbalance that prompts the ovaries to make more androgens than normal (androgens are male hormones that females also produce). High androgen levels cause egg follicles to remain as cysts instead of fully maturing, which prevents the development of other hormones necessary for regular, recurring and healthy menstruation.
You may think it pretty nice to have a reprieve from Mother Nature’s red fury every now and then, but if left untreated women with PCOS are at a greater risk for sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, miscarriage, preeclampsia or premature delivery. But there’s fantastic news, ladies: managing PCOS is one of the easiest things you'll ever do.
If you’re not trying to conceive, birth control pills are the simplest way to rein in your hormones. Certain diabetes medications have been successful in curbing PCOS symptoms, but fertility medications and anti-androgens are also extremely effective. The medical community is still working as hard as they can to find a cure or even a cause. It’s believed to be a genetic disorder, but regardless of why, there are even more important questions to ask: who is the best doctor to see? What lifestyle changes can I make? When do I seek medical treatment? (Hint: the answer to that last one is as soon as you suspect symptoms.)
And when it comes to PCOS, one of the most important things you can do is take care of your emotional health (we would know—some of our staff members here at P&N have this condition, too. You are never alone, ladies!). Reach out to other women and talk—you may be surprised at the similar experiences and feelings you all share. It may be scary, and it may seem unfair, but by taking care of yourself and really understanding your body you’ll be surprised at how well you can manage this condition. Soon enough, by putting yourself first and being proactive, you’ll be able to tell PCOS that it has just G2G.