Written by Dr. Heather
One of the most important pieces of value I offer to my patients, family, friends and basically anyone who will listen to me is something you probably already have heard me say more than once.
You are not alone. Navigating complicated sexual health topics can be overwhelming and you have a right to feel that. But you’re not alone.
One particularly confusing (notice, I did not say scary) condition is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormonal condition that can cause upsetting symptoms.
It is more common than many of us realize, with a prevalence rate of about one of every 10 women of reproductive age. In addition to irregular, unpredictable, and prolonged periods, PCOS symptoms can cause acne and unwanted body and facial hair and raise your risk of other health problems including obesity and issues with infertility.
In response to your honest, open questions I’ve been receiving lately, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the most common symptoms I get asked about when the topic of PCOS is broached.
Will I gain weight if I have PCOS?
Remember when I said you’re not alone? If you have PCOS and deal with weight gain, you are one of every two women who has the condition who does.
The research on the relationship between obesity and insulin resistance varies, but some research supports that obesity is related to insulin resistance.
The good news is that while weight gain is a relatively common factor for women with PCOS symptoms, it doesn’t occur in all cases. However, insulin resistance is exacerbated in those those women with PCOS who are obese.
To understand more about the role insulin resistance plays in PCOS cases, check out this article on the basics of PCOS.
Will PCOS make me infertile?
Research suggests that PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. However, having PCOS does not mean you can’t get pregnant.
The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS interfere with your menstrual cycle, often entirely throwing off the frequency and duration of your monthly visit from Aunt Flo.
If your cycle is impacted, the release of eggs from your ovaries can become a guessing game, making it more challenging to get pregnant.
Coupled with unpredictable cycles, studies have shown that the above-average androgen (male hormone) levels in women with the condition are also a significant risk factor for infertility.
Will PCOS make me have irregular periods?
Those pesky little androgens. They are at play for women with PCOS in a variety of ways. For women with above average androgens, it throws off your balance of female sex hormones, which can result in irregular periods.
It’s different for everyone – while they are the minority, some women with PCOS do have regular visits about every 28 days. However, many may experience nine or less periods a year, or have periods stop altogether.
The regularity of the menstrual bleeding may also vary greatly, with some women reporting prolonged, heavy periods.
Will PCOS cause psychological symptoms?
The short answer is I’m not sure. The research on the topic varies, as causality comes into play. (Think chicken and egg).
That being said, I’m going to go ahead and be real about something. In any case, with or without PCOS, you feel overly anxious or depressed, please tell someone.
Preferably a doctor or professional, but just telling one person you trust is an excellent first step.
Because yes, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is complex. It can be confusing, particularly since the cause is not known.
But for goodness gracious sake, do not let that keep you from asking these hard questions. Do not let that keep you from calling your Obstetrician-Gynecologist. And do not ever let that keep you from reaching out to me.
What questions do you have about PCOS? What questions can I answer for you about this very real, incredibly important topic? Don’t hesitate to get in touch – I am happy to help!