Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder affecting many women, current statistics say it’s 1 in 10 women in the UK but it’s thought up to 70% are undiagnosed!
However, obtaining a proper diagnosis for PCOS can be a challenging and frustrating process. In this blog post, I’ll explore the steps involved in getting a PCOS diagnosis, the signs and symptoms to look out for, and how to empower yourself through awareness.
PCOS is a metabolic condition that affects the hormonal balance in women, leading to various symptoms such as irregular periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, and fertility issues. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones, specifically an overproduction of androgens (male hormones), which can interfere with the development and release of eggs from the ovaries. You are meant to have testosterone in your body, the problem in PCOS is that it can edge too high.
Recognising the Signs and Symptoms:
Identifying the signs and symptoms of PCOS is crucial in seeking a diagnosis. A big challenge that women with PCOS experience, is that we don’t all get the same symptoms, however, the most common ones include:
- Irregular periods: Menstrual cycles that are irregular, infrequent, or absent – if you have a cycle over 35 days this is classed as irregular.
- Excess hair growth: Often on the face, chest, back, or abdomen, known as hirsutism.
- Acne: Frequent breakouts and oily skin.
- Weight gain: Difficulty losing weight and an increased tendency to gain weight, particularly around your waist.
- Infertility: Difficulty conceiving due to irregular ovulation or the lack of ovulation.
- Insulin resistance: High insulin levels, leading to increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Mood swings and depression: Fluctuations in mood, anxiety, and feelings of depression.
Seeking Medical Advice:
If you suspect you have PCOS, it is essential to consult with a your GP. They may refer you onto a specialist, though current waiting times can be long. This may be a gynaecologist, endocrinologist, or fertility specialist. During your appointment, be prepared to discuss your medical history, including any symptoms you've been experiencing and their frequency. Your doctor may perform a physical examination, order blood tests to check hormone levels, and request an ultrasound to evaluate the ovaries for cysts.
You may have additional health issues on top of PCOS so working with a medical professional can help you navigate your options for managing everything together.
Empowering Yourself through Awareness:
- Educate yourself: Research PCOS to understand the condition better. Familiarise yourself with the diagnostic criteria, treatment options, and potential lifestyle modifications that can help manage symptoms. There’s a lot you can do to improve your symptoms, without medication.
- Track your symptoms: Keep track of your menstrual cycles either in an app or just physically write it down, noting any irregularities or changes. Getting to know your cycle is one of the most empowering things we can do as women.
- Advocate for yourself: If you feel your concerns are not being taken seriously or you are unsatisfied with the answers you receive, don't hesitate to seek a second opinion. Your health and well-being are important and finding a healthcare provider who listens and supports you makes this journey much, much easier. You might want to seek alternative support though a nutritionist or women's health coach.
- Lifestyle modifications: While there is no cure for PCOS, certain lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and have a big impact on your overall health. These include adopting a healthy, balanced diet with a focus on protein, moving your body everyday, managing stress levels, and getting enough sleep.
- Support networks: Reach out to support groups, online communities and speak to your friends – PCOS is so common that you will know others who suffer with it! Connecting with others who understand your experiences can provide comfort, guidance, and make your health journey feel less lonely and isolating.
Obtaining a diagnosis for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can be a challenging journey, many women don’t get diagnosed until they’ve been trying to get pregnant and are struggling. By recognising the signs and symptoms, seeking medical advice, and empowering yourself through awareness, you can take control of your health. Remember that you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available to support you.
Stay informed, be proactive, and advocate for yourself to receive the care. It’s not easy, is likely to feel a bit scary, but you really can reclaim your body from PCOS and feel good again.
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