“6 Myths About PCOS: Debunked” | myMindBodyBaby
We are going to look at, and debunk, 6 myths about PCOS! Despite the fact that polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, affects approximately 1 in 10 women of childbearing age this common, life-impacting syndrome is not well understood.
What is known?
The range of symptoms a woman can experience with PCOS is widespread. How PCOS is experienced by one woman can be vastly different as compared to another. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty in managing one’s weight and body composition
- Elevated insulin levels
- Hair on the chin, chest, back, or buttocks
- Hair loss or thinning hair on the head
- Acne, pimples, or oily facial skin
- Irregular or absent periods due to infrequent or absent ovulation
- Prolonged, heavy, and or painful periods
- Infertility (due to ovulation challenges)
- Increased anxiety
- Higher levels of depression
- Mood changes
- Sleep apnea
How it is diagnosed?
PCOS, a hormonal condition, is usually diagnosed using the Rotterdam criteria. While medical professionals agree that further research is required to understand PCOS and its diagnosis better, for now, women are often diagnosed if they demonstrate two of the following three criteria:
- Irregular or absent ovulation
- Elevated levels of androgenic (male) hormones
- Enlarged ovaries containing at least 12 follicles each
A diagnosis often follows a physical examination, blood work, and an ultrasound. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS you may also want to check out our article, PCOS Diagnosis: What is it, and what you can do to manage it?
How is it treated?
There is no cure for PCOS, and symptoms can be treated differently depending on your current goals. For example, birth control is often prescribed to help manage hormone levels – however, if you are trying to become pregnant, this is not a viable option.
Many doctors will recommend a lifestyle adjustment, and this is a practical option for women regardless of their family planning goals.
Exercise for PCOS
Incorporating 30-40 minutes of exercise 3-4 days a week, but aiming for activity on most days of the week, can help manage body composition. Elevated body fat levels can exacerbate insulin levels and so maintaining body fat percentages in an ideal range is beneficial.
Nutrition for PCOS
Carbohydrates are not always processed in the same way for women with PCOS as they are for women without. This means that eating a bowl of pasta may have a much greater impact on the insulin levels of a woman with PCOS than it would on a woman without PCOS. Following a carbohydrate reduced diet can help manage insulin levels and body fat composition.
Lifestyle management made easy
Being diagnosed with PCOS can feel very overwhelming. Hearing the lifestyle changes you are expected to make can feel daunting and you may not be sure where to begin. The fertility clinics we have partnered with have shared this sentiment on a number of occasions and asked us to create a simple, easy to use guide to help PCOS patients.
This guide helps you to understand what factors can impact your symptoms and guides you through tools and tactics to start feeling better. It contains super easy, delicious recipes so that you don’t have to worry about things like carb levels or sugars – plus it comes with a weekly grocery list to make that trip to the store easier. It also has a full, four-week exercise schedule with full-length video workouts to keep you moving – and motivated! You can use the code PCOS20 to get 20% off this easy to use, practical program! Click here to check it out!
6 Myths About PCOS: Debunked
Because the symptoms vary from person to person, and there is still a gap in the research on this condition myths are circulating out there. And you know us! Here at myMindBodyBaby we like research, data, and facts. So, to wrap things up let’s look at 6 Myths About PCOS.
Myth 1: You have to have cystic ovaries to have PCOS
While it is called POLYcystic ovarian syndrome – you may not actually have poly (many) cysts in your ovaries. Having cystic ovaries is a criterion, but not the only one for PCOS. You may have elevated male hormone levels and irregular ovulation and menstrual cycles – but no cysts.
Myth 2: You did something to cause your PCOS
PCOS is a medical condition that has genetic links. You did not cause your PCOS. There may be lifestyle factors that are making your PCOS symptoms worse at the moment, but they are not the cause of your condition. Women with PCOS have elevated male hormone and estrogen levels and their bodies react to certain stimuli (i.e. simple carbohydrates) differently than women without PCOS.
Myth 3: Your weight could lead to PCOS
If you do not have PCOS then elevated body fat levels would not cause PCOS. However, if you do have PCOS certain symptoms may become more pronounced with higher body fat levels.
It should be noted, in our quest to debunk myths, that weight is a confusing word to use because it is not necessarily indicative of body composition. Muscle weighs more than fat. So when we talk about managing PCOS we try to talk about body composition and body fat percentages, not body weight as an absolute. While reducing your body fat levels to the desired range may help manage some of your PCOS symptoms, it is not a cure for PCOS. PCOS does not have a cure – it has a wide range of symptoms that you can try to manage.
Myth 4: You can’t get pregnant if you have PCOS
Because women with PCOS often ovulate infrequently, or not on the standard monthly cycle, it can prove challenging when trying to conceive. The window of time a couple can conceive is relatively short (only a couple of days each cycle) and if you aren’t ovulating regularly then timing intercourse appropriately can be difficult. This doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant – so if you are not trying to conceive right now, precautions should still be taken.
Many women find out they have PCOS after they struggle to become pregnant. They seek medical advice, certain tests are performed (medical exam, bloodwork, ultrasound) and then a diagnosis is made. There are medications that you may be prescribed to help induce ovulation. You may also be monitored (via bloodwork and ultrasound) at a fertility clinic to help identify when you are about to ovulate to help time intercourse appropriately. Some couples may also turn to assisted reproductive options like IUI and IVF to help achieve pregnancy.
Myth 5: You can only eat kale if you have PCOS
While we like kale – this would be a horrible fate! It is true that reducing your carbs and simple sugars can help manage insulin levels. But fear not, you are not destined to a lifetime of boring salads. We have some great recipes in this free meal plan guide if you need a little inspiration.
If you’re looking for more than just a few recipes make sure to check out our full PCOS Fitness & Nutrition Guide. It has four FULL weeks of breakfasts, lunches dinners, and oh-so-yummy snacks!
Myth 6: If you have a wonky period, you have PCOS
There are many reasons for irregular periods, and PCOS is only one of them. Body fat percentages (both too high and too low) can impact your menstrual cycle. An overactive or underactive thyroid can impact menstruation. Stress can wreak havoc on your cycle. Just to mention a few of the more common situations that may impact the regularity at which you ovulate. If your period is all over the place it is recommended that you make an appointment with your healthcare professional to understand if you are possibly looking at PCOS or another underlying issue.
Wrapping it all up
PCOS can be a difficult diagnosis to receive. It can impact so many different areas of your life. It can create challenges that people without PCOS do not have to deal with. But there is some good news. In receiving a diagnosis you can start to implement certain actions to help improve your quality of life. Things that you thought were just inherently part of you (pimples, weight issues, mental outlook to name a few) might be improved with a few simple changes to your lifestyle. Again, if you have PCOS it will not disappear. But if you understand more about it and what can be done to help manage it you are one step ahead of where you were yesterday.
Lyndsey Clabby is a co-founder of myMindBodyBaby. It took her and her husband four years, countless needles & tests, multiple failed rounds of IUI, miscarriage, and two rounds of IVF to bring their son Bronsen into the world. Sawyer came two years later, followed by Adalyn in 2020. Self-reported cardio-addict, when not mommying and helping support other infertility warriors, she likes to run and try new workouts. She also pretends she’s crafty. She is a marketer & entrepreneur (BMSc, MBA), certified fitness instructor for the past 16 years, and a Patient Advocate for Fertility Matters Canada.