Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an incredibly common condition affecting up to 15% of women of reproductive age. It is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, an excess of male hormone production, and/or polycystic-appearing ovaries – but not all people with PCOS have all three symptoms.
Unfortunately, many people with PCOS don’t get properly diagnosed until later on in life, leading to confusion, uncertainty about how to manage its symptoms, and its possible effect on fertility. The best thing to do if you receive a PCOS diagnosis is empower yourself with the facts and find a good physician who specializes in PCOS, so they can help figure out the right solutions for you.
Here are five important things to know about PCOS:
There is no one-size-fits-all way to manage PCOS.
While a quick Google search may deliver a lot of information, not all of it is accurate. Every person with PCOS is unique, meaning what works for one person may not work for another. Find evidence-based information sources you can trust, and learn as much as you can about how PCOS affects your body.
You don’t have to suffer in silence.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed and feel isolated living with PCOS – but don’t feel like you have to go it alone. There are so many wonderful resources available to you, like support groups, helpful articles, apps, informative videos and other tools. Tapping into these resources can make a big difference.
Movement is especially important for people with PCOS.
Exercise is a key component to managing PCOS. There are many different types of exercise that can help manage your PCOS symptoms, ranging from moderate to more intense. The goal is to find a form of exercise that fits your personality. Explore different types of movement until you find something you enjoy enough to do regularly. Most experts recommend incorporating a movement practice at least 3-5 times a week, depending on your current activity level. Whether it’s swimming, yoga, walking, group classes, biking, or something else, establishing a routine and being consistent is what’s most important.
Not everyone with PCOS struggles to get pregnant.
While PCOS does tend to make ovulation irregular and can lead to challenges with conception, having PCOS doesn’t automatically mean you’re infertile. There are lots of different options, from ovulation induction and timed intercourse to intrauterine insemination (IUI) to in vitro fertilization (IVF). So if you have PCOS and are struggling to conceive, seek professional help from a reproductive endocrinologist.
PCOS does make it harder to lose weight.
It’s not all in your head – if you have PCOS and struggle to lose weight, it’s important to understand why. PCOS is associated with several metabolic issues, like insulin resistance, which may lead to excess weight gain. Insulin resistance creates an environment where cells in the fat, muscle and liver don’t respond well to the insulin. This results in the pancreas over-producing insulin (hyperinsulinemia). In addition to good nutrition and exercise, there are an increasing number of insulin-sensitizing medications that can help aid weight loss in certain PCOS cases, as well as other tools. Not everyone with PCOS has insulin resistance, but finding a care provider who can evaluate your personal health and review all available options with you is always important.
When you’re diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), it can feel like a life sentence – but it doesn’t have to be that way. As a reproductive endocrinologist specializing in PCOS, I see patients every day who have conquered their symptoms and gone on to have successful pregnancies, achieve their wellness goals, or simply gain the confidence they need to live a full, healthy life with PCOS.
Whatever your personal goals may be, equipping yourself with the proper knowledge and resources to manage your PCOS symptoms will help you achieve them.
Dr. Ilana Ressler is a Reproductive Endocrinologist with RMA of Connecticut, and is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.