Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility. This condition is beginning to get more attention from healthcare providers, but many people still hold some common misconceptions. Think you may have PCOS? Test your knowledge on these PCOS myths.
PCOS Is Caused by Ovarian Cysts
PCOS affects approximately 10% of women of childbearing age. Imbalanced reproductive and other hormones can cause ovulation and fertility problems, weight gain, excess facial or body hair, and certain skin issues. Many people read the full name of the condition and assume that the multiple cysts on the ovaries are to blame.
In fact, many people with PCOS don’t have ovarian cysts at all! This condition is based on issues with the endocrine system, or your hormones. Imbalanced hormone levels can result in strands of immature egg follicles on the ovaries, which resemble cysts but are different. Some people with PCOS won’t have this symptom, but will manifest PCOS in other ways.
PCOS Always Causes Overweight or Obesity
This is a bit of a tricky myth. It’s true that PCOS often causes people to gain weight, or struggle much harder to lose weight. Issues with insulin resistance contribute to these weight issues.
“Always” is the key word that makes the above statement a myth. People with milder forms of PCOS, or who don’t have insulin issues, may not notice any weight issues. For those who are struggling with excess weight, PCOS makes weight loss challenging but not impossible.
Diet and exercise can have a significant impact on hormone levels. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietician who specializes in PCOS. They may recommend eliminating or reducing certain foods, like sugar and starchy grains and vegetables. Healthy habits designed with PCOS in mind, and sometimes insulin-regulating medication like metformin, can help you maintain a healthy weight.
If I Have PCOS, I Can’t Have a Baby
This fear is probably what brought you to this article. There’s good news: PCOS isn’t a sentence of infertility.
PCOS does often make getting pregnant more difficult. The hormonal imbalance can interfere with ovulation. If you don’t ovulate and release a ripe egg, you won’t get pregnant. But for one thing, there are variations of PCOS where the person may experience other symptoms, like the excess hair and “cysts” on the ovaries, but still ovulate normally.
In cases where PCOS interferes with normal ovulation, your doctor may suggest medication to lower some hormone levels and promote others that lead to ovulation. Sometimes, lifestyle changes may be enough to tweak hormones back within normal limits without much or any medication. Overall, there’s every reason for you to believe you can get pregnant with PCOS, either naturally or with some fertility help. Your doctor can tell you more about how much intervention is likely to be necessary for you to conceive.
Birth Control Fixes PCOS
Birth control pills are often used as a way to manage PCOS. This treatment often leads to mixed emotions. It’s a relief to see some common PCOS symptoms clear up, but you need to be off birth control to have a baby. Will your PCOS problems come back?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a “cure” for PCOS. Treatment is based on using medication to correct hormone levels, but at this point in time people with PCOS should expect to manage their condition long-term.
Because treating PCOS is based on treating symptoms, your doctor can help you switch medications based on your needs. Healthcare providers use other medications to make it easier for people with PCOS to get pregnant, and they can discuss pregnancy-safe medications that might be useful to handle symptoms while you’re expecting your baby.