Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Apr 08PCOS


This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer at Proactive For Her.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition that affects 10% of women of reproductive age. Women with this condition tend to have higher levels of male hormones called androgens, as well as insulin resistance.

Although PCOS is talked about a lot, several misconceptions and myths are orbiting around the condition. It’s time we bust these myths once and for all!

11 pcos myths

Here are 11 common myths about PCOS and the facts to clear them up:

1. I need to have Polycystic Ovaries to have PCOS

Cysts in the ovary are not the only symptoms of PCOS. The name of the condition is a misnomer. Many women who have PCOS don’t have cysts on their ovaries, and having cysts doesn’t always mean you have PCOS. Metabolic distress and reproductive abnormalities are the hallmarks of this disease.

To be diagnosed, a menstruator needs to fulfil only two of the three conditions :

1. androgen excess [ which leads to hirsutism (excessive hair growth in all the wrong places), acne or hair loss] or lab tests showing elevated androgens

2. irregular menstruation

3. multiple follicles/cystic ovaries on an ultrasound scan

2. I Can’t Get Pregnant if I Have PCOS

Research has shown that PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women in India. The hormonal changes affect the ovary’s ability to release an egg and even its potential to be fertilised for pregnancy. But this is not a death sentence for pregnancy!

Most women can still get pregnant, both naturally by seriously working on their lifestyle or after fertility treatments such as follicle-stimulating drugs or through IVF.

If you have PCOS and want to start a family, the message here is not to get discouraged if it doesn’t happen soon. By keeping your PCOS in check and with the help of fertility specialists, you can have your own bundle of joy in no time!

3. If my menstrual cycle is irregular, I have PCOS

A normal cycle is anywhere from 21 to 35 days. An irregular menstrual cycle can be caused by a number of causes other than PCOS, like breastfeeding, extreme diets or overexercising, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, thyroid disorders and stress.

If your cycle is less than 22 days or greater than 34 days long, talk to your gynaecologist. Through a thorough examination and relevant lab tests, your doctor can help you identify the likely cause. (like a blood test to look at thyroid levels)

4. If I am not trying to get pregnant, I don’t have to worry about PCOS

PCOS doesn’t affect just a woman’s fertility; it can impact her long-term wellness. It has been linked to type 2 diabetes (more than half of PCOS women have diabetes or prediabetes), high blood pressure (hypertension), poor cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, and endometrial cancer. Regular monitoring by screening tests, timely diagnosis and treatment are critical for a woman’s health in the future.

5. Everyone with PCOS is obese or overweight

There’s a misconception that PCOS will only affect people who are on the heavy side. SincePCOS is a syndrome, it affects people in different ways.

Weight gain impacts insulin production and ovulation, this is the reason why more commonly, overweight/obese women are at a higher risk of PCOS. The risk of using weight as a gauge is two-fold: Thin women might commonly be overlooked, and an obese woman with irregular periods might be inaccurately diagnosed with PCOS.

6. PCOS and my mental health issues are not related

This isn't the first time that the links between PCOS and low mood have been examined. Studies have found that PCOS patients were more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and eating disorders.

The hormonal imbalance, issues with body image and weight as well as anxiety around unpredictable periods make many PCOS persons develop mental health concerns.

Luckily, there are also steps you can take to help ease the downsides of PCOS, including following a specific diet and trying certain types of exercise. As with many mental health conditions, addressing them with the help of a GP or talking to others can also be positive steps to take.

7.Everyone with PCOS will get prediabetes or diabetes

Most women diagnosed with PCOS, though not all, have insulin resistance. Your doctor would’ve most likely recommended blood tests to measure fasting glucose levels as well as a lipid panel. If your fasting glucose levels are above 100 mg/dl, you probably have insulin resistance and may also be pre-diabetic.

Left unchecked, insulin resistance makes your cells less sensitive to insulin over time, leading to Type 2 Diabetes. This is why doctors commonly prescribe Metformin to women diagnosed with PCOS.

But here’s some good news for you. Pre-diabetes (and insulin resistance) can be reversed with the right diet and lifestyle changes, without the need for medication. This will also bring about a positive impact on your other PCOS symptoms like lethargy, hunger pangs, weight gain and brain fog.

8. There is one therapy that can solve all the problems!

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. A PCOS treatment is tailor-made to suit the symptoms of the patient. The doctors may recommend any of the treatment options after a thorough examination of your PCOS symptoms :

Birth control pills: These pills help to regulate the menstrual cycle. These drugs bring down the level of androgens, which reduces excessive hair growth and acne.

Fertility drugs: They will help you conceive even if you have PCOS.

IVF: In case fertility drugs don’t help, enlist the help of a fertility specialist and try IVF treatment to make your maternal dreams a reality!

9.Metformin is only used for diabetic patients in PCOS

Several studies have shown that Metformin can improve fertility in women with PCOS. The use of Metformin may also aid in weight loss to some extent. It may reduce hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) even though it is less effective than other hirsutism treatments. Metformin by increasing insulin sensitivity works best in overweight women with signs of insulin resistance with PCOS.

10.Birth control pills would only help control the cycles and not anything else!

Birth control pills can help to relieve your symptoms and make living with PCOS significantly easier. Most women with PCOS use a combination of birth control pills that contain synthetic versions of the hormones progestin and estrogen. Such combination pills prevent acne breakouts.

Failure to have regular periods can lead to the buildup of uterine tissue (called endometrial hyperplasia) which may increase the risk of uterine cancer. With a combined contraceptive, progestin works against estrogen to prevent hyperplasia.

It helps reduce excess androgen levels in the blood. This in turn reduces the symptoms of acne, androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness), and hirsutism (unwanted facial and body hair). It also protects against unwanted pregnancy in people whose ovulation cycles are often difficult to track.

11.It’s all my fault that I ended up with PCOS!

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but one thing is certain: You are not to blame!

Genetics is widely believed to be the cause of PCOS in many women. Lifestyle factors and weight gain may contribute to PCOS. Insulin resistance is implicated in PCOS. This is most common in women who are overweight or obese. Women whose mothers and sisters have PCOS are more likely to be affected by this condition, too.

That’s stored! Let these myths cause no more troubles for you! PCOS is manageable! Follow your diet plan and exercise regime. Take your medications as directed. Girls, let’s take control of our life!

Disclaimer - This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

ProactiveForHer is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause. To know more on the sexual and reproductive health of women, visit https://www.proactiveforher.com/