PCOS is, for short, polycystic ovarian syndrome. But what does that actually mean? And why is it important to know about? Well, for starters, we believe that 5-10% of the female population has this disorder and it is the most common cause of infertility in women. So I take it I have your attention now?? Awesome. Let’s break it down.

The first thing to know about this disorder is that it is, honestly, still not totally well understood. It’s confusing even to providers in the field. We believe that it starts with some form insulin resistance. This doesn’t mean type 2 diabetes, but it could mean slightly higher glucose levels than the norm. Some patients with PCOS have no evidence of this, so it’s hard to say definitively (this is fun, right?). So how do we even diagnose this disease if we don’t totally get it? Our criteria is symptoms. These symptoms are anovulation (read: not ovulating. which in turn means no or few periods), weight gain or obesity, hair growth in areas such as the upper lip, chin, chest, and stomach, acne, trouble with getting pregnant, or multiple cysts seen on the ovaries with an ultrasound. But if you have acne (we all do, so…), DON’T freak out! We need A LOT of these symptoms to be present, not just one (let’s be logical here– if your weight gain is from a poor diet and your dark upper lip hair is a mix of genes and ethnicity, it’s probably not PCOS-related).

So what can you do? Weight loss is the one proven thing a patient can do to aid in decreasing PCOS-symptoms. Getting a full work-up from your health care provider is required to make this diagnosis (I know we’re all tempted to self-diagnose, but let’s avoid that, shall we?) and your health care provider can help you make a plan. Usually a combination of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) plus medication is indicated. A diagnosis of PCOS does NOT mean you won’t be able to get pregnant or live a normal life. A diagnosis does require patience with treatment, however, in order to figure out what combination of things will work for your and your future goals.

It’s a complicated illness–seriously–so high-five for reading all of that (if you did indeed read it). Knowledge is power (cue the ‘the more you know’ star). As always, if you believe you may be experiencing something I discuss on this blog, get an appointment with your OBGYN and check it out. I cannot diagnose on the internet and you shouldn’t self-diagnose either. It’s tempting, but stay off the WebMD/google rabbit hole. My posts are merely a guide and an educational blurb in hopes that we may all learn our bodies a little better. Thanks for reading! 🙂