September is designated as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Month. PCOS is identified as an auto-immune condition, that affects a woman’s hormones. In fact, the condition is the #1 endocrine disorder in women of child bearing age. The founder of the PCOS association, Christine Dezarn, identifies that nearly 7 million women in the U.S have PCOS with less than half, having yet to be properly diagnosed with the condition.
What does PCOS look like?
Symptoms of PCOS are missed or irregular periods, Ovaries that are large of have several cysts, excessive body hair; particularly in the chest, stomach, and back areas, excessive weight gain in the stomach area, thinning hair, miscarriage and infertility. For most women, they become aware of the condition after their first miscarriage.
In 2002, my twin sister discovered that she was pregnant. What was supposed to be a happy, celebratory time, quickly turned into a period of bereavement. After several years of misdiagnosis, fad dieting, and change in doctors, she was finally given a diagnosis of PCOS. At that time, medicine was not as advanced as it is today and doctors determined it would require a miracle for her to be able to conceive. Even if she did, it would require another miracle to carry the baby for a full term. As any sibling would, I joined in on the fight to find answers, treatment, therapies, homeopathic remedies, or anything that could help my sister improve her quality of life and to be able to bear children.
Today, I am the proud auntie of an 8-year-old niece and 9-month-old nephew. Women who are living with PCOS and desire to have a child(ren) need our encouragement to not give up on their dreams of being a mommy. PCOS is a complicated disorder and is easy to get misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, obesity, hypertension, which are all symptoms of the disorder. Recently, there have been several new advancements in medicine that can aid in women getting a more accurate diagnosis that can reduce the amount of years waiting to get pregnant. Adopting lifestyle changes such as a gluten free diet, eliminating processed foods, and establishing a workout routine could help with reaching your lifestyle goals.
Managing the Condition
The journey to managing this condition may not be an easy fix for some who have yet to achieve their goal of becoming a mother. This condition has destroyed marriages and families, created isolation from connecting with others, and some women have a hard time bonding with children. Physical stressor includes weight gain and hair loss, which can take a toll on a woman’s self-esteem. When supporting the woman in your family, check for symptoms of depression such as chronic fatigue, lack of interest in daily activities, irritability, lack of concentration, anxiety, trouble making decisions, or suicidal thoughts. Attend doctors’ appointments, help them with research, and remain positive.
During the month of September, look for ways to educate yourself and support someone you know with this complicated condition by participating in PCOS charity walks/run, symposiums, health fairs, etc. Join PCOS support groups, and encourage women you know with the strength to continue this fight for herself and her unborn children.