Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that affects a woman’s ovaries and hormone levels. It can come with some unpleasant symptoms and can have a long lasting impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
I was confused when I had my own diagnoses at the mere age of 15. It answered why I had irregular periods, but I wanted to know what the bigger picture was. It took years of figuring that out, and while it does make me worried from time to time – it isn’t as scary as I first thought.
Here’s my own breakdown of the condition and what you can do to help manage it.
In a nutshell, PCOS affects the ovaries, the reproductive organs that produce oestrogen and progesterone. These are hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.
This explains why an initial sign of PCOS for many girls is the absence or irregularity of periods. Women suffering with PCOS also have a higher level of male hormones, which can cause excessive hair growth. Abnormalities in the ovaries, such as cysts, are also common.
Causes and symptoms
So, what are the causes and tell-tale signs of the condition?
While it is understood that the high levels of male hormones is what prevents the ovaries from working properly, and producing eggs, the cause of the condition is still a bit of a grey area.
As with my own experience, women usually detect symptoms around the time of their first period. Others may find they have PCOS after noticing significant weight gain, noticing excessive hair, or after finding it difficult to get pregnant. Each of these symptoms can in turn lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Doctors typically diagnose PCOS in women who have one or a few of these symptoms — high androgen (male hormone) levels; irregular menstrual cycles, or ovarian cysts.
My own diagnosis was made possible via an ultrasound, which is a type of scan that uses sound waves to take a closer look at the ovaries and uterus. Other tests include that of the blood, or even a pelvic exam.
Lifestyle interventions are the first treatments doctors recommend for PCOS. Weight loss through a combination of exercise and better nutrition can help keep symptoms at bay, and can also improve the odds of getting pregnant.
Certain medicines can be an alternative option if lifestyle changes don’t work.*
Based on my own experience, going on the contraceptive pill brought back a normal menstrual cycle for me. There are other medicines which can also relieve some PCOS symptoms.
*Disclaimer: this post is not to be used as a form of personal advice but rather an overview of the condition.
I hope you found this blog entry useful and informative. I encourage you to talk to your doctor for further advice as to what are the best steps for you.