What Is PCOS?
Among the host of period issues and health conditions related to the reproductive system and hormones, PCOS is has been determined as the most prevalent hormone-related illness. Despite its commonness, there is a great deal of obscurity surrounding this condition.
The causes of PCOS and effective treatments are both challenging to pinpoint. Because the symptoms of PCOS are often present in other reproductive ailments, an erroneous diagnosis often results. Many experience prolonged suffering and frustration due to these factors.
Our hope at Red Moon is to help you overcome this obstacle by becoming well-informed on the condition and understanding your options for living more comfortably with PCOS.
Read to discover helpful information about the condition along with suggestions for seeking help and finding solace.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS occurs when there is a disruption or halt in ovulation.
Facts about PCOS:
- Over 5 million suffer from the condition in the U.S.
- Most common female hormone disorder
- Leading cause of infertility
- An individual can be unaware they have it
The cause of PCOS is part of its obscurity. While it is not exactly clear, experts have determined that PCOS most often occurs due to the hormone androgen.
Androgen is a male sex hormone that females also possess in small amounts. However, if androgen production increases, it can be a catalyst for causing PCOS.
There are a couple of factors for elevated androgen levels:
- Lower levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) which prevents ovulation and causes cysts to form that produce androgen
- Higher levels of insulin or hyperinsulinemia
Other conditions linked to PCOS are:
- Family history and genetics
Although these factors play a role in developing PCOS, it is challenging to determine the specific cause in all cases.
Each person is affected by PCOS differently. Your unique body will experience a unique combination of symptoms. Depending on how the hormones affect your body will determine what you endure.
The main hallmark of PCOS is an unusually heavy, irregular, or absent menstrual cycle. Heed any signs and symptoms that your period presents. Many factors can initiate abnormal periods, but tune in to what your body might be telling you.
Headaches, fatigue, pelvic pain, and moodiness are very often reported in addition to period irregularities. If these factors accompany an abnormal period, the likelihood that a more significant issue is at play increases.
Additional PCOS symptoms include:
- Abnormal hair growth
- Skin tags
- Darkening skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Access weight gain
- High blood glucose or insulin levels
- Trouble getting pregnant
Experiencing two or more of these symptoms means it’s an appropriate time to consider consulting with a healthcare professional.
If you’re considering speaking to your doctor about your symptoms, here are some tips:
- Track your cycle and observe changes or abnormalities
- Observe timing of symptoms; record if necessary
- Note lifestyle or diet changes
- Make a list of questions to ask your doctor
- Trust your instincts
Your body is a powerful communicator, and no one knows it better than you. Be confident in what you know to be true about the physiological clues you’re getting, and be prepared to convey those to your doctor.
Issues That Mimic PCOS
One of the reasons PCOS often goes misdiagnosed is that other reproductive and overall health issues may present similar symptoms.
A PCOS diagnosis is a differential diagnosis, meaning healthcare professionals must rule out any other possibility for your symptoms before PCOS is determined to be the cause. This process can be frustrating as it prolongs proper treatment and leaves patients with continued uncertainty.
Endometriosis and ovarian cysts are two common reproductive system issues that tend to mimic PCOS.
Endometriosis is another serious reproductive issue that is often mistaken for PCOS. While there are some common symptoms between PCOS and Endometriosis, they are entirely different conditions caused by independent factors.
The possible development of cysts does exist in those who have PCOS, yet it is not the only condition where they may be present. It’s possible to experience cysts that are not a result of a hormone condition. Ovarian cysts are very common and result from a normal menstrual cycle; however, misinterpreting their symptoms for PCOS is also common.
Other issues sometimes mistaken for PCOS include:
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Thyroid disorders
It may take time and patience to differentiate between other similar issues and PCOS. The positive is that by paying attention and reporting symptoms, you’re moving toward feeling well.
Once you have decided to seek healthcare, you can expect certain next steps. Discussing your symptoms and medical history will take place initially. Likely a pelvic exam will be conducted to determine the health of your reproductive organs.
Other tests may be ordered, such as an ultrasound and blood tests. An ultrasound will allow a view of the ovaries and uterine lining, while blood tests can determine elevated androgen levels, blood glucose, and other relevant markers.
If a PCOS diagnosis results from your examination and tests, ahead of you is focusing on your treatment and care options. There is no cure for PCOS. Management techniques are available, but living with the condition is a reality.
Medical Treatment Options
Your treatment options may depend on your age, what symptoms you’ve experienced, and the state of your overall health. Whether or not you wish to become pregnant will also be a factor.
There are pharmaceutical options for regulating the menstrual cycle, such as:
- Birth control pills, patch or vaginal ring containing estrogen and progestin
- Progestin therapy
These oral medications or injections may also be suggested for stimulating ovulation:
You may decide that medications are a viable option and may be a successful mitigation measure for your symptoms.
Holistic Wellness and PCOS
A holistic approach also has very promising potential to make living with PCOS more comfortable. It can be a companion to prescription medications or a management method on its own.
A healthy diet is the first step to achieving balance in the body. Good nutrition can improve cognitive function, digestion, and affect mood. Diet affects weight, and maintaining a healthy weight contributes to managing PCOS.
Here are some suggestions for making good PCOS-friendly nutrition choices:
- Add more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Make carb sources unrefined whole grains and non-starchy vegetables
- Get adequate amounts of healthy protein
- Choose anti-inflammatory options like olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish, and berries
An enjoyable workout has benefits beyond managing PCOS, but staying active can helps ease symptoms. Regular exercise is a foundation of holistic wellness as it affects heart health, improves mood, and helps regulate sleep.
We recommend incorporating a positive period care routine to manage symptoms and balance mind, body, and spirit. Being mindful during menstruation is key to a calm period.
There are benefits to making natural and organic choices for relaxation and period relief. Substances that work in harmony with your body and naturally induce relaxation and reduce inflammation reduce PCOS symptoms.
The feminine products you choose to use during your period should also be considered. Adding Natural products are a gentle, safe choice for managing PCOS, and organic and eco-friendly options sustain holistic wellness lifestyle choices.
Solutions for Self-Advocacy
It can feel overwhelming to receive a diagnosis of an illness. Unfortunately, it’s also common for patients to feel that their symptoms aren’t taken seriously or they aren’t given adequate explanations or options. There are countless stories of patients who have proved to be relentless in their quest for diagnosis and proper treatment.
The best advice is to understand that you are your body’s closest ally. No one knows your health needs better than yourself. Being an active, engaged participant in all health-related decisions will help ensure your needs are being met.
Take advantage of the excellent resources and checklists available for becoming your own best advocate.
Physical relief is a priority, but escaping the mental and emotional stress of an illness can be just as important. PCOS can feel like a burden that’s weighing you down.
Here are some strategies for lightening the emotional load:
- Practice self-care by enjoying a special treat
- Engage in journaling
- Try meditation
- Share your feelings with a trusted, caring friend or family member
- Meet others with the condition by joining a support group
- Share your story and inspire others
You’re not alone in your struggle with PCOS. It’s possible, and important, to find emotional support along with tackling the physical symptoms. Connect with yourself and others for a happier, healthier period.
On Your Side
Red Moon has your best interest in mind and offers support and care for those suffering from PCOS. You can count on our commitment to eco-conscious products and our commitment to helping you experience a relaxed, calm menstrual cycle.
If you suffer from PCOS or have another period-related health issue, join our community and share your story. Inspire others and make connections with individuals who are passionate about period health and positivity.
Cherie Marquez is the co-founder of Red Moon, where she brings her talents as an entrepreneur, storyteller, and holistic health enthusiast. Cherie is also the founder of Take One Daily Media, a marketing, advertising, and design agency dedicated to using media in creative and progressive ways. For twenty years, Cherie has used marketing and design strategy to impact social change. You can connect with her on Linkedin.
Women’s Healthcare of Princeton
Very Well Health