Let’s Bring Awareness to PCOS


PCOS Awareness- Corpus Christi Moms Blog

“PCO what?”

I’m pretty sure those were my exact words soon after being diagnosed with PCOS in 2006.

September is PCOS Awareness Month. But what is PCOS? PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women; to put that in perspective, that’s more women than the total number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, combined! Still, for women diagnosed with this emotionally and physically painful condition, PCOS can feel completely isolating. This chronic condition can affect a woman’s health on many levels. For a woman battling PCOS, her menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, appearance and more are commonly touched in some form by this condition. Women with PCOS commonly have high levels of androgens, missed or irregular periods, and many small cysts around their ovaries (which is where the name Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome comes from.) 

What Causes PCOS?

The cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome remains unknown. Many scientists contribute it to heredity and genetics. It’s also been linked to a hormonal imbalance but the jury is still out on whether the hormone imbalance causes PCOS or if PCOS causes the hormone imbalance.  In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce excess androgens. Androgens are typically thought of as a male hormone but are also made by women. Excess androgens affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Researchers have also linked insulin to PCOS. Insulin, another type of hormone, controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy which the body must either use or store. When the body has too much of it, it cannot use it all and thus it appears that the excess insulin hormone then increases the androgen hormone resulting in acne, excess hair growth, weight gain and ovulation issues. 

Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

I was diagnosed with at the age of 26. In retrospect, if someone told me about PCOS, I may have put the clues together and connected the dots much sooner.  Symptoms include menstrual irregularity, acne, obesity, and facial hair growth; all of which are easily confused with the hormone fluctuations most teenage girls go through. When I was diagnosed, a way of emotions rushed through me. On one hand, I was relieved to finally have an answer to why I had so many body issues that I felt made me different that other women. Yet, on the other hand, hearing that this condition was chronic and there was no cure, made me feel hopeless that I’d ever be normal.  

Treating PCOS

That’s right, while there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of PCOS, there is no cure.  Most women with PCOS turn to the synthetic hormones in birth control pills to treat the menstrual irregularity.  We use a medication called Metformin to prevent diabetes, statins to control blood pressure, hormones to increase fertility, and procedures to remove excess facial and body hair. 

On so many levels, PCOS is a complicated medical condition. I have personally used every single one of these uncomfortable, and to be frank, embarrassing, treatment options to treat various symptoms that result from my PCOS condition.  Diet is another method that is typically recommended to control PCOS. Still, because of the insulin aspect, your body craves carbs and simple sugars which could possibly be one of the contributing factors. It would be great if there were one answer or one thing you could change/do to correct PCOS but there is not. 

I went on to struggle with infertility for nearly ten years before turning to hormonal fertility treatments which resulted in my one and only pregnancy (which also gave me four babies.) I still struggle with nearly all of the common symptoms of PCOS to varying degrees. Sometimes I am able to get a grip on one of them, but then another area likes to flare up. Currently, I’m looking at reducing my body’s chemical load by reducing my use of chemicals and focusing more on a natural, whole foods diet. Still, there’s no guarantee that I can correct the syndrome as we don’t really know what causes it.

Long-term Affects of PCOS

What we do know, however, is that women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing serious health conditions. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

  • More than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40.
  • The risk of heart attack is 4 to 7 times higher in women effected than women of the same age without PCOS.
  • It is linked to high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Women with PCOS:

  • Are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
  • Can develop sleep apnea. This is when breathing stops for short periods  of time during sleep.
  • May also develop anxiety or depression. It is important to talk to your doctor about treatment for these mental health conditions.
  • Are also at risk for endometrial cancer. Irregular menstrual periods and the lack of ovulation cause women to produce the hormone estrogen, but not the hormone progesterone. Progesterone causes the endometrium (lining of the womb) to shed each month as a menstrual period. Without progesterone, the endometrium becomes thick, which can cause heavy or irregular bleeding. Over time, this can lead to endometrial hyperplasia, when the lining grows too much, and cancer.

If you or someone you know has some or many of the symptoms of PCOS, it’s definitely worth a visit to your doctor to confirm. Because of the complicated nature of the syndrome, it’s important to find a doctor who knows a lot about PCOS to get a good diagnosis. There is no single test that will diagnose you. Just like the syndrome itself has many components, your doctor will look at many areas of your life and health before making a diagnosis. Be prepared for you doctor to looking into your health history, complete a physical and pelvic exam, run blood tests, and use a vaginal ultrasound before receiving a diagnosis. 

While being diagnosed with PCOS can feel devastating and unfair at times, it isn’t the end of the world. There are treatment options to help you manage your symptoms and knowing the risks associated with the condition, can help you to prepare and be watchful for the long-term health affects associated with the condition.

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Misty is a native Texan but moved to Corpus Christi in 2014 with her family of six when her quadruplets were just eight months old. (That’s right; quadruplets. As in FOUR babies born at the same time.) Misty and her husband Adam spend most of their time tending to their four three-year-olds. She enjoys sharing her adventures in parenting high order multiples and feels that, just as when dealing with quads, it’s always best with a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. Most of the past four years feel like a blur, spent just trying to survive on God’s grace alone: a struggle with infertility, a challenging pregnancy, three moves (two with quads and one while pregnant.) an emergency delivery, 52 days in the NICU, her mother’s battle and ultimate loss to cancer, and then there’s that whole raising quadruplets alone in a city where she knew no one, miles away from friends and family, while the hubby worked out of town. Blogging and ridiculous amounts of Facebook posting have become a way of life not only in order to stay in touch with loved ones, but also to serve as a reminder of where her family has come from and all they’ve been through. Misty leads a busy life tending to the needs of four very active toddlers, substitute teaching, helping others learn about the amazing benefits of Young Living essential oils, and documenting her journey on her blog at www.lotsobabylane.com. Still, there’s always time in her life for God and crafts. Misty is an active member of Bayshore Bible Church and enjoys all things crafty (presently, all things vinyl.)