As previously mentioned in our What is PCOS blog, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects the body in two ways: bodies can make insulin but cannot use it effectively and experience an increase in androgen levels (My Health Alberta). Higher androgen levels may cause health problems related to irregular menstrual periods, weight gain, acne, thinning hair, and excess hair growth on the face and body (My Health Alberta). Higher androgen levels can also prevent women from developing and releasing eggs during their menstrual cycle (ovulation) (CDC).
Myths About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
There are many PCOS misconceptions. It is important to identify these myths to better understand how PCOS may affect your physical and mental health throughout your PCOS journey.
Myth #1: You caused your PCOS diagnosis
It is a common misconception that PCOS may be caused by something you did. The direct cause of PCOS is not known. However, genetics, family history, and a body’s insulin resistance can all contribute to your likelihood of having PCOS (My Health Alberta). Women with a family history of PCOS are more likely to be affected by the condition (Penn Medicine). Additionally, as mentioned earlier in this blog, fertility problems are caused by an imbalance of hormones (androgen) and anovulation (a lack of ovulation) (Penn Medicine).
What is important to note is that you are not responsible for your PCOS.
Myth #2: Women With PCOS Have Polycystic Ovaries
Many women who have ovarian cysts do not have PCOS, and women who have PCOS do not always have ovarian cysts (Everyday Health). Cysts are considered a symptom of PCOS, but this symptom does not need to be present for an individual to receive a diagnosis (HealthLink BC). Only two of three symptoms need to be met to receive a diagnosis: androgen excess, irregular menstruation, or multiple follicles/cystic ovaries (Everyday Health).
Myth #3: Women Who Have an Irregular Menstrual Cycle Are Infertile and Have PCOS
Although a symptom of PCOS is an irregular menstrual period (shorter than 21 days and longer than 35 days) or missed periods, it is not the only indicator of this condition (Everyday Health). There are many other reasons why a woman may experience an irregular menstrual cycle, including stress, lifestyle factors, birth control medication, and endometriosis (Cleveland Clinic).
If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, or related health problems, it is important not to assume that you have PCOS. Reach out to your medical practitioner or obstetrician-gynecologist with your concerns as they can help identify contributing factors and treatments (HealthLink BC).
Myth #4: PCOS Is Not an Issue for Women Who Do Not Want to Get Pregnant
Infertility is only one of the health problems caused by PCOS. Other symptoms include large ovaries or ovary cysts, excess body hair, thinning hair, weight gain, acne, oily skin, skin tags, and darkening of the skin (Hopkins Medicine). Additionally, PCOS may increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and stroke (CDC).
Consulting with your medical practitioner, and receiving a diagnosis and treatment for PCOS is key to maintaining your overall physical and mental health (Everyday Health).
Myth #5: Everyone Living With PCOS Experiences Infertility
Do not be discouraged if you are living with PCOS. Although PCOS may cause infertility, it does not occur in every case. It is still very possible to get pregnant naturally. It is also important to remember that there are various treatments, including medication or lifestyle changes that can be implemented to assist ovulation (Penn Medicine).
Myth #6: You Can Cure PCOS
PCOS cannot be cured; however, there are different treatments and lifestyle changes you can make to help you manage symptoms (PCOS Awareness Association). It is important that you consult with your medical practitioner to determine what treatment works best for you.
Your doctor may prescribe different types of medications to help regulate your menstrual cycle, acne, hair growth, and blood sugar levels (PCOS Awareness Association). Lifestyle changes recommended by doctors may include regular exercise and a balanced diet (NHS). There are also fertility treatments available if you experience difficulties getting pregnant. For more information about PCOS and fertility, check out our blog.
Myth 7: PCOS Only Affects Women Who Are Overweight
PCOS affects can affect women, regardless of weight or size (Penn Medicine). Weight gain is a symptom of PCOS, but it is not the cause (Johns Hopkins Medicine). Not all women with PCOS experience weight gain; for those that do, weight gain is caused by insulin resistance (excess insulin that is built up by the body) (Johns Hopkins Medicine).
Women who have PCOS and are overweight may have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and uterine cancer (WebMD). Losing weight can help balance hormone levels and improve PCOS symptoms; it can also help regulate your menstrual cycle (WebMD). Medical practitioners may recommend treatments and lifestyle changes to lower the risk of these conditions and help with weight loss (WebMD).
Keep these PCOS misconceptions in mind as you navigate through your journey. By identifying these myths, you can better understand how PCOS may affect your physical and mental health.
Remember that although you may feel overwhelmed throughout your PCOS diagnosis and treatment, you are not alone. There are many informative resources available to help you learn more about PCOS and make managing the condition easier. Luckily, we have compiled a list of all the resources available to you!
Click the button below to download the complete list.