Whether they’re an entrepreneur, a boss, a super mom, or something in between, the modern woman is embracing new roles, setting bigger goals, and meeting the world head-on. But hustle culture has its downsides — more work, less sleep, and late nights with instant meals among other things. And what most women don’t realise is that in the long run, this hustle can have a detrimental effect on their health. Every choice they make today can impact their health in the future. An example of a health complication that can be exacerbated by the unforgiving 21st-century lifestyle? PCOS.
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects many women in all stages of life, from adolescents to menopausal women. It is shown to be affected by genetic markers as well as lifestyle choices. You may have heard of PCOS, you may even have a friend who lives with it — one in five Indian women do. But because it’s such a widely talked about condition, it can seem very scary, as though it’s an unpreventable, unmanageable shadow looming in the distance. But this isn’t completely true. Many of the fears surrounding PCOS come from the misinformation and myths that are spread about it. Here is our attempt to dispel some of the most common myths. The following information is sourced by our in house specialist, Dr Dhanya Ramdas
Myth #1 — PCOS is a new condition.
With the more cases of PCOS being logged in recent years, it’s easy to see how this myth came about. However, the numbers we see today reflect the reporting rates of the condition. We may never know how many women over the years had the condition, but didn’t think to get it looked over. Several of the common physical indicators, such as excessive facial hair or acne, might not have seemed like a reason to visit the doctor. It’s also important to remember the historical stigma around irregular cycles and infertility. Women’s health has changed a lot over the years, we do a lot more preliminary screenings for one. These days, it’s a lot easier to catch the symptoms of PCOS early thanks to this. As people become more aware of the condition, they’re more likely to screen for it and get treatment if needed. Another aspect we need to take into account is a significant change in lifestyle. The quality of your nutrition, the amount of exercise you do, and the way you manage stress can all affect the likelihood of developing PCOS.
Myth #2 — It is difficult to lose weight with PCOS
As mentioned above, weight loss is a big factor in the management of PCOS. That said, it is neither easy nor more difficult to lose weight with PCOS than without. Weight loss comes from a change in lifestyle — whether that means changing your diet, increasing your activity, or reducing the stressors in your life. Your doctor may refer you to a profession to ensure that you find the best weight loss plan for you.
Myth #3— Irregular periods are a sure sign of PCOS.
Yes, an irregular cycle is one of the markers of PCOS, but is not the only marker of PCOS, nor is PCOS the only thing that might cause an irregular cycle. An irregular cycle might also be a sign of:
- High stress
- Exercise-associated amenorrhea
If you think an irregular cycle is a marker of PCOS, keep and eye out for other factors:
- Hirsutism (unwanted facial hair)
- Polycystic ovaries
- Increased testosterone levels
Also remember that you can have PCOS without having an irregular cycle, which is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for the other indicators.
Myth #4 — You can’t get pregnant if you have PCOS.
Although PCOS is connected to fertility issues, it is still possible to conceive even if you have the condition. Doctors will act proactively, prescribing medication for insulin resistance. They may also prescribe oral contraceptives to regularise your menstrual cycle and increase the chances of ovulation. They may also suggest lifestyle changes with the support of professionals such as nutritionists and therapists. Even something as simple as regular activity can help manage PCOS enough to make conception and pregnancy possible.
Myth #5 — PCOS can’t be managed.
PCOS management comes from a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Working to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, and sleep more can work wonders to lower your insulin resistance and make many of the symptoms of PCOS more manageable. This can be combined with medication and therapy to help with the biological and mental factors (ie stress) that influence the condition.
Myth #6 — I don’t need to worry about PCOS if I’m not planning to get pregnant.
Infertility is a well known effect of PCOS, but it’s not the only complication that can occur. PCOS can increase the risk of other health complications, particularly diabetes. So even if pregnancy isn’t currently on your to-do list, it’s important to try and manage, if not prevent, the condition.
Myth #7 — PCOS increases my chance of getting uterine cancer.
Now this one does have some factual backing, let’s take a deeper look into this. A study conducted in Taiwan shows that there was a higher instance of endometrial cancer in women with PCOS than those without —- an instance of 22.6 per 100,000 vs. 1.5 per 100,000. The American Cancer Society states that PCOS is a risk factor because the condition creates a hormonal imbalance, with higher androgen and estrogen levels than progesterone. The increase in estrogen in relation to progesterone can increase a woman’s chance of getting Endometrial cancer. PCOS is also linked to diabetes, another risk-factor for endometrial cancer. It is important for all women, but especially women with PCOS, to be screened for endometrial cancer, particularly as they age, as the risk increases as a woman gets older.
PCOS is a common disease, and it can be very frightening if you don’t know much about it. But it can be managed, and even prevented, with a few tweaks to your lifestyle. The right food, exercise, sleep, stress management — they all play an important part in keeping your body balanced and healthy. And if you are diagnosed with PCOS, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Build up a support system of professionals — a physician or gynaecologist, a health coach, a psychiatrist — who can help you manage this disease. People with PCOS can live a rich and happy life so long as they pay attention to how they live. Try and drop the bad habits of hustle culture, and work towards a happier, healthier you.