Updated: May 1, 2021
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal syndrome which affects women typically during their reproductive years. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or your doctor has raised it as a possible diagnosis it does not mean your life is now written off to be difficult, painful and childless. Here are seven common myths about PCOS which we will debunk.
1. You did something to cause your PCOS.
False. There is nothing you can or can’t do to cause PCOS. Several factors out of your control, including genetics and hormone imbalances, are widely believed to play a role in the syndrome developing.
2. PCOS is a common condition.
True. PCOS affects 1 in 10 women today which means that it is very likely that you or someone you know is suffering from PCOS, even if you have not been diagnosed yet. It is believed that this syndrome is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders among women of reproductive age.
3. You have to have polycystic ovaries to have PCOS.
False! Surprisingly, despite the name of the syndrome, this is not true. It is possible for women who have ovarian cysts to not have PCOS and it is also possible that women diagnosed with PCOS do not have ovarian cysts. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman needs to fulfill only two of the three conditions: the excess of the androgen hormone (signs include excess hair growth, hair loss, acne), irregular menstruation, or multiple follicles/cystic ovaries.
4. PCOS only affects overweight women and if you lose weight you can cure the syndrome.
False. It is true that many women who have PCOS are overweight or obese. It is also true that obesity can make PCOS symptoms worse. However, PCOS can and does affect women of all shapes and sizes. The relationship between weight and PCOS has to do with the body's inability to use insulin properly, which can in turn lead to weight gain. Losing weight can help women balance their hormones and further manage symptoms of PCOS, however there is no cure and while symptoms can be managed, PCOS will not be fully eliminated.
5. Acne and hair on my chin and mustache can be due to PCOS.
This is true. PCOS can cause an increase in the amount of male hormones that circulate in your system, and these hormones can cause acne and hirsutism, a condition where hair growth occurs in a male pattern (beard, mustache, chest, upper back or abdomen).
6. If your menstrual cycle is irregular, you have PCOS.
False. An irregular menstrual cycle can be caused by a variety of different things including hormone disorders, uterine fibroids, thyroid disorders as well as lifestyle changes such as extreme dieting and exercising. Stress can also cause an irregular period. If your cycle is less than 22 days or more than 34 days, you are within the range of an irregular cycle and should discuss with your doctor what the possible causes could be. PCOS is just one possibility in this case.
7. Diet and exercise can help to improve PCOS symptoms.
True. Many studies have shown that a balanced diet along with regular exercise, even for persons with PCOS who are not overweight, plays a significant role in helping to regulate irregular menses.
8. You can’t get pregnant if you have PCOS.
False, and this is a common misconception. While PCOS does make it more difficult for you to get pregnant, many women do still ovulate intermittently and can get pregnant naturally at this time. Additionally, you may speak with your doctor about possible fertility treatments that may boost your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS such as medications to stimulate ovulation. It is actually one of the most treatable causes of infertility!
9. You will know for sure if you have PCOS.
False. It will not be that easy to identify if you have PCOS without a doctor’s consultation. PCOS comes with several common symptoms such as acne, mood swings and irregular periods which could be as a result of many different things. It is thought that up to 50-70% of women with PCOS are not diagnosed, particularly if they experience no symptoms at all.
It is normal and smart for you to seek out more information about a diagnosis or possible diagnosis you may have. Ensure that you also discuss with your doctor any information you may have or any concerns you have to rule out the common misconceptions your diagnosis may face. If you do have PCOS or think you may have it, book a consultation today to discuss with your OBGYN what this diagnosis may mean for you and your future.
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