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Myths and Facts about PCOS

10 Myths and Facts about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Nowadays it is very common for 10% of reproductive-age women to have this hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. 1 in every 5 women today is suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome/Disorder or in short PCOS/PCOD. Here are 10 common Myths about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) we have gathered and some facts to clear them.

Women suffering from Polycystic Ovaries have high levels of male hormone androgen in their system. Excess amounts of androgen causes abnormalities like hair loss, unnecessary acne and Hirsutism. Also, PCOD/S patients suffer from insulin resistance. They might start gaining unwanted and abnormal weight and tend to obesity or type-2 diabetes. 

Polycystic ovarian symptoms include infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, multiple follicles/cystic ovaries, acne, skin tags, male pattern hair growth, anxiety disorder, insomnia, etc.

As the real reason for this hormonal disorder is still unknown, even to the doctors, there are many misconceptions about this disorder. These misinformations prevent women from getting diagnosed and treated properly and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Myth #1: You must have cysts in your ovaries.

As the name of this disorder has ‘cyst’ in it, the foremost misconception people have about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is having polycystic ovaries is a must. But this is not true. You don’t always need to have ovarian cysts to have PCOS. Many doctors these days are arguing to change the name of this disorder. Because not cystic ovaries but metabolic and reproductive abnormalities are the primary concern of this hormonal disorder. For many people, tiny follicles in their ovaries may be the reason they are diagnosed with PCOS. Despite these follicles looking like small cysts, they differ greatly from actual cysts. These cysts like follicles aren’t cancerous. They do not cause any pain or discomfort. Also, not all women who are diagnosed with this disorder have these kinds of follicles on their ovaries.

Related read: How to Know if you have PCOS? Causes and Symptoms.

Myth #2: You can’t get pregnant with PCOS

Of course PCOS can be the leading cause of infertility, but that certainly does not mean it is not possible to get pregnant in this hormonal disorder. The primary problem in polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disbalance which prevents ovaries from releasing eggs during ovulation regularly. Which decreases the chance to fertilize the egg potentially and reduces the chance of getting pregnant. BUT… no need to worry there! You can still get pregnant. With or without medication.

People are just convinced that they cannot get pregnant if they have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is absolutely false. There are multiple fertility treatments (e.g., IVF) available nowadays which will give you a head-start to get pregnant. So, you do not have to be discouraged if someone tells you, you cannot conceive. My aunt has PCOS, but with the help of IVF, now she has birthed a healthy baby boy.

Myth #3: Some home remedies can cure PCOS permanently

Often you might go to the search engine and type- “how to cure PCOS permanently?” But, no matter how harsh and discouraging it may sound, just place a hand over your heart and accept this.

PCOS cannot be cured permanently. But it is maneagable.

No medicine, no Ayurvedic treatment, and no home remedies can cure this hormonal disease ‘permanently’. Because the actual cause of this disorder is still unknown. If doctors cannot know the real reason, how will they treat you permanently? But hold on! The good news is, yes, you certainly can reverse your PCOS and PCOD symptoms with lifestyle modification, which includes a healthy diet, exercises and yoga, and by avoiding certain food. And of course, knowledge is the key. Get yourself educated about your body and its complications. The more you are aware, the more you can go forward to live a healthy life.

Myth #4: Birth-control pills treats PCOS

Doctors mostly prescribe you with birth control pills if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS. However, only some specific kinds of birth control pills are effective in treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Progestin amounts in each birth control differ from the other. It’s a synthetic progestogen hormone that is used in gynaecological treatment, reduces sex hormone levels, and helps with fertility and pregnancy. These progestins help in PCOS to balance the hormone levels. 

By taking birth control, one can have benefits like reduction in unwanted hair growth and acne, regular ovulation and regular periods, etc. However, there are side effects. Although not everyone suffers from these side effects or have the similar kind of side effects. Nonetheless, many people face them. Side effects like mood swings, headaches, nausea, possible weight gain or loss, soreness in breasts etc. can be experienced.

So, when you’re going through some birth control, make sure you’re aware of its side effects.

Myth #5: PCOS can affect your sex life

Sex drive is all about when you feel like it. You get it, right? With polycystic ovaries it is sometimes difficult to build up sexual drive, especially when birth control pills are involved. But of course, the primary task of birth control pills is to regulate hormones in your body, so that you can have your periods regularly. But some of these pills reduce your testosterone level, which affects your libido, and you don’t feel like ‘doing it‘ anymore. 

Another reason is stress. Of course, stress is a thing with PCOS and PCOD patients. Always living in fear when your periods will show up or what if you get pregnant – it’s a natural thing. But stress management can deal with that as well. If depression or anxiety disorder is your concern, you can always consult with a psychologist or sexologist for support.

Myth #6: Having an irregular menstrual cycle means you have PCOS 

PCOS can be a major cause for irregular menses, but it certainly is not the only one. Having irregular menstrual cycles doesn’t automatically make you diagnosed with PCOS and PCOD. There are so many other reasons that can cause irregular periods.

A typical cycle duration is between 21 to 35 days. So you can have your periods in any interval between these number of days. There are multiple causes for which people get irregular periods. For example, thyroid disorder, other endocrine conditions, stress or crash dieting, etc. If you’ve been getting your periods irregularly, then speak to a doctor. It might require some additional tests and exams to identify the actual cause. Don’t just jump to conclusion.

Myth #7: PCOS is dangerous

Although there’s a chance of getting endometrial cancer, doctors and researchers have informed that women with polycystic ovaries must know that it is a rare form of cancer. PCOS and PCOD might raise risks for chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease – but it is still possible to reverse the symptoms with a healthy lifestyle. And the first step to that is a positive approach.

Myth #8: Everyone with PCOS is overweight

Of course, the most common misconception about PCOS and PCOD is everyone diagnosed with this disorder is overweight. Overweight people are more common in PCOS and PCOD, but there are people who are underweight and still have polycystic ovaries. As people have this misconception that women tend to gain weight in PCOS and PCOD, underweight people are overlooked. But they do exist. Not all who are diagnosed with PCOS and PCOD are overweight, and not all who are obese with irregular periods have PCOS and PCOD.
The good news is, only a few pounds of weight loss can make you healthier. As PCOS is a lifelong situation, just a little healthy lifestyle modification can help improve the symptoms. Some light exercise and yoga along with a healthy diet can make it easier. Avoid fast food and sugar and you’ll get adjusted to this healthy life.  

Myth #9: You must cut gluten, dairy and sugar from your diet in PCOS

The biggest food misconception in PCOS is you have to opt for a gluten, dairy and sugar-free diet. It helps you lose weight fast. There is no scientific proof that can back this claim. It is just that, cutting off gluten cuts off some extra calories from your meal, that’s all. Some people with PCOD might be sensitive or allergic to gluten. But the major percentage of women don’t find cutting off gluten helps them with PCOS at all. You can add more fiber and protein-rich foods, whole grains into your diet. They help balance blood sugar level, weight management and reduce risk of other diseases.

Similarly, you need not to completely eliminate dairy products from your diet. Milk and milk products are rich in calcium and protein that help treat acne. Although studies have shown dairy produce increases insulin and androgen levels. That is why it is advisable to limit dairy products in your diet. If you’re not allergic to milk and milk products, you can certainly incorporate small quantities of dairy products in your diet. 

You CAN eat sweets but in limitation. It is better to avoid sugar and sugary food items, but a cube or two of dark chocolate won’t do you any harm because dark chocolate has antioxidants which can help you deal with your cravings. You can add jaggery or honey instead of sugar. Jaggery is an unrefined natural sugar source and honey is healthy sweet until it’s heated. Cutting off sugar completely might backfire sometimes. You must know the difference between hunger and temptation.

Related reads: Indian diet for weight loss in PCOS?

Myth #10: Women with PCOS can’t lose weight

Due to insulin sensitivity in PCOS patients, they are prone to type-2 diabetes and find it difficult to lose weight, even after following a healthy lifestyle. Losing weight with PCOS/PCOD may be difficult, but it is not impossible. With the help of a registered dietician and endocrinologists, it is certainly possible to lose weight. And when I say, losing a minimum of 5 or 10 pounds weight can actually support you through your PCOS journey, trust me, it does. I have lost over 22 lbs (10 kgs) and now my period duration has changed from 2 days to 4 days.

You can do it too. 💜

Resources

  1. PCOS for Dummies
  2. Debatable topics in PCOS Patients
  3. FACT OR FICTION: PCOS MYTHS DEBUNKED

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