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PCOS and busting the Ms Average’s Myths around it

16 November 2020

For many people, PCOS is synonymous with infertility. For many women being told they have PCOS, feels like it’s the end of the world because they assume it means they will struggle to conceive…

While it is true that PCOS women might have irregular cycles and may not ovulate every month, this is not the same as infertility. So, why do we think that that PCOS is a fertility issue?

Myth No. 1: With PCOS, you can’t get pregnant.

The most common myth about PCOS is that “you can’t get pregnant”. PCOS is indeed the most common cause of anovulatory infertility, which affects approximately 1 in 5 women. However, there are treatments for and ways to manage this disorder that are successful. Unfortunately, the belief that pregnancy with PCOS is impossible is also a misconception held by some healthcare providers.

They pass on this information to women who, on the one hand, do not take contraception so they can fall pregnant and, on the other hand, get stressed because they think they are infertile.

Keeping a healthy lifestyle is the key to PCOS management. By losing at least 5% of your weight, your ovaries can start working again, and an egg can be released monthly. If, despite losing weight and changing your habits, you still have irregular periods, it is worth considering a visit to a fertility doctor for further advice. Your doctor might recommend treatments, like ovulation induction or IVF, depending on other factors.

Myth-busting: Although with PCOS you do not ovulate every month, there are tools to help you to release a monthly egg in order to conceive. The truth is you can get pregnant, either naturally or with assisted conception.

Myth No.2 Having polycystic ovaries (PCO) on ultrasound is the same than having the syndrome.

Another important issue is that people assume that having PCO morphology in the ovaries is same as having the syndrome, this is not true! Up to 30% of women have this appear in their ovaries, and they have regular periods and no unwanted hair growth. Actually, because of the name, many people think they have cysts in the ovaries, which is false. What you have in the ovaries are little follicles which look like small cysts, but they contain eggs. In a normal cycle, one of them is selected, grows and ovulates.

However, in PCOS, those tiny follicles, are not able to be selected because of the hormonal imbalance, and that is why they do not grow, and they are not released every month. In PCOS, you don’t have those big cysts that cause pain or can rupture.

Myth-busting: All cysts in the ovaries are PCOS: not true, PCO morphology is one of the elements used for diagnosis, however, if irregular periods or signs of hyperandrogenism (hirsutism, acne, hair loss) are not present, you don’t have PCOS. At the same time, if you have androgen excess and irregular periods, but your ovaries look normal, you might have PCOS. 

Other myths regarding PCOS

There are many other myths around PCOS, for instance, these two: “if you have irregular periods, you have PCOS” or “everyone with PCOS is overweight or obese”. With respect to irregular periods, even though PCOS is a frequent cause, it is clearly not the only one. Some thyroids disorders, fibroids, breastfeeding, changes in your weight, stress can also cause abnormal periods. If your cycles are less than 21 days or longer than 35 days, speak to your GP or your fertility doctor to find out why.

It is also a misconception that all PCOS women are overweight, obese, or they can’t lose weight. First of all, there are also slim women with PCOS, and not everyone who is overweight or obese has PCOS. Secondly, when PCOS is associated with insulin resistance or diabetes, it may be trickier to lose weight; however, it isn’t impossible. A good dietician or endocrinologist can help you achieve your weight loss target.

Myth-busting: Everyone with PCOS is obese or struggles to lose weight: false! Obesity is not always related to PCOS, and losing weight is far from impossible.

Remember – what is average is not always true and is not always normal! 

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