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Living With PCOS: Myths Women Need to Debunk for a Happier and Healthier Life

Women’s reproductive health can often be a mystery. Most notably, pain is frequently attributed to periods when it’s actually an underlying symptom of other reproductive conditions. In one case, a woman found that pain initially dismissed as menstrual cramps was, in fact, caused by cancerous ovarian tumors

That’s why it’s no surprise that many women also don’t know much about polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. Usually dictated by genetics and hormones, this reproductive disorder is the leading cause of infertility in women. However, many women are unaware that it exists. In one study published by Cureus, over 78% of participants did not know what PCOS was. 

And even if you do know about PCOS, you may have heard things about it that are not actually true. Since PCOS can cause pain and discomfort that negatively impact your quality of life, debunking a few myths concerning it can help you concretely determine if you have it and come up with a treatment plan that ensures you continue enjoying a happy and healthy life. 

Myth #1: Experiencing one symptom of PCOS automatically means you have the condition

You may think that only women who are overweight or obese, get irregular periods, or experience hirsutism (excessive hair growth) have PCOS. These assumptions don’t necessarily hold true. Having a single symptom of PCOS doesn’t guarantee a diagnosis because the condition manifests differently per person. For example, women with normal BMIs also get PCOS without weight gain as a symptom. Known as “lean PCOS,” this condition is often harder to diagnose as a result. Other symptoms may also be caused by outside factors, such as how hirsutism may instead stem from genetic factors based on one’s ethnicity. The three main symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, high androgen hormones, and polycystic ovaries. You need to experience two out of three to get a diagnosis, so don’t believe you have PCOS if you’re only seeing one of its symptoms.

Myth #2: PCOS is only a reproductive disorder 

Though PCOS primarily affects the ovaries and, therefore, your fertility, it is also a hormonal disorder that affects other parts of the body. For example, symptoms like acne, infertility, irregular periods, and hirsutism are caused by increased testosterone production. As a chronic condition, PCOS can also increase your insulin resistance and cholesterol levels, causing comorbidities like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. That said, it’s vital to manage PCOS even if you’re not looking to get pregnant—and ensure the medically approved treatment plan you follow addresses more than the reproductive aspect of the condition.

Myth #3: Weight loss alone can “cure” PCOS

When managing PCOS, you’re often asked to lose weight first. Though this can help rebalance your hormone levels, some believe this alone can “cure” PCOS altogether. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for PCOS. However, weight loss can still be effective for PCOS management. Just make it part of a holistic solution that covers diet, exercise, and any necessary medications to make up for the fact that PCOS slows your metabolism and makes weight loss more challenging. A PCOS diet to lose weight should prioritize fiber and protein intake while cutting out processed foods. Alongside regular exercise and prescribed medications that regulate your metabolism, this can control your hormone and insulin levels. You also need to prioritize self-care. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night and staying connected with loved ones can reduce stress and prevent sleep disorders that worsen insulin resistance, weight gain, and testosterone production. More importantly, it’ll help you feel happy even while living with PCOS. 

Myth #4: A PCOS diagnosis automatically means you’re infertile 

Though infertility is one of the primary symptoms of PCOS, women with the condition can still get pregnant. There are many treatment options you can try to improve your fertility. One is to make simple lifestyle changes, with the holistic PCOS weight loss strategy mentioned above proven to increase one’s chances of getting pregnant. Another is to simply see a fertility specialist. Aside from artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization, they may prescribe follicle-stimulating drugs that induce your ovaries to release eggs, thus bypassing the effects of PCOS altogether. 

It does get better

Though PCOS is a lifelong condition, it’s not a life sentence. Simply knowing if you have it and that there are many options to treat it can help you manage the condition so you can continue to live a happy and healthy life. If you or someone you know thinks they have PCOS, keep these debunked myths in mind—and your chin up!

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