PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome is very common and indeed one in every 7 women in India has PCOS, and out of every 10 women diagnosed with PCOS, 6 of them are teenage girls. With such pervasiveness, the syndrome has a lot of myths floating around and misinformation can impact diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately prevent a woman from effectively living well with PCOS.
Here are a few myths we will bust:
Myth #1 If You Have Cysts You Have PCOS
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop on the ovaries. Every woman in her lifetime can develop at least one ovarian cyst, most of the time this is painless. Having cysts does not mean you have PCOS. To be diagnosed with PCOS, the following conditions are considered,
- Presence of excess male/androgen hormones which may lead to hirsutism, acne, hair loss.
- Menstruation is irregular
- Multiple follicles/cystic ovaries
Myth #2 You Can’t Get Pregnant if You Have PCOS
One of the biggest myths ever, this statement is absolutely untrue. While PCOS is a common cause for subfertility, it can be managed and women can get pregnant with proper care. Read more about fertility management with PCOS here.
Myth #3: PCOS is a Rare Condition
Nothing like it, 10% of the women population in India is affected by PCOS (read more here – PCOS and Fertility ). This means 1 out of every 10 women are diagnosed with PCOS, out of which 6 of them are teenage girls. There are many treatment options available, such as
- Birth control pills are a good treatment option to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce androgen levels.
- Fertility medications help stimulate ovulation if the woman is seeking to get pregnant. (read more here on PCOS and Fertility)
- Ovarian drilling, a surgical procedure might be beneficial in a select group of patients who fail to ovulate with conventional ovulation inducing medication to improve response. The procedure is known to temporarily lower androgen levels.
Myth #4: PCOS Will Affect Overweight Women
Approximately 70% of women with PCOS are obese or overweight, and being obese or overweight amplifies the impact of PCOS, however, PCOS can affect women of all shapes and sizes.
PCOS leads to weight increase due to the body’s inability to use insulin properly (this is, in fact, a common condition in type 2 diabetic patients). As mentioned above eating healthy and exercising regularly is recommended as part of most women’s treatment plan.
Myth #5: If Your Menstrual Cycle Is Irregular, You Have PCOS
While irregular menstrual periods could be a sign that you may need to get yourself tested for PCOS, there are other many reasons that could be the sole reasons for an irregular menstrual cycle. Some of the reasons are:
- You have an intrauterine device (IUD)
- You may have changed your birth control pills or are using certain medications.
- You may be breastfeeding.
- You are under stress.
- You have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- You are experiencing thickening of lining or polyps or uterine fibroids.
Myth #6: If Not Looking to Get Pregnant, You Don’t Have to Worry About PCOS
Wrong, wrong, wrong. PCOS affects many things in a woman’s body and can impact her long-term wellness for the rest of her life. PCOS does not just affect fertility but can be the root cause for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), poor cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, and endometrial cancer. All of these things impact health in the long run.
Myth #7: All Women With PCOS Should Go on the Birth Control Pill
Using birth control pills is one of the most common ways to regularise menstrual irregularities caused by PCOS. However, treatment for PCOS will largely depend on the symptoms with which they present and the end goal.
Myth #8: You Need An Ultrasound To Be Successfully Diagnosed With PCOS
Ultrasound is required to detect the presence of multiple follicles or cystic ovaries. Presence of polycystic ovaries alone doesn’t mean you have PCOS. However, the presence of polycystic ovaries along with one or more of the following is essential to make the diagnosis of PCOS such as irregular periods, acne, hirsutism-excessive facial hair or subfertility.
Myth #9: If You Have PCOS, You’ll Know for Sure
Actually no. While one in ten women will have PCOS, some of them may remain undiagnosed as the most common symptoms of PCOS like acne, mood problems, and irregular menstrual periods is often thought to be stress and is missed.