Myths About PCOS

Image I thought it would be worth sharing the myths and facts of PCOS that I have come across through searching through the internet.  Like a one stop shop… so you can see the different ones.  Some may be repeated, but I left each the way the original person wrote it; and I have sourced the place I found the information.  If you find any other ones I did not please share them in a comment to this, along with the sourced link 🙂

MYTHS & TRUTHS 

MYTH 1: If you are overweight you will just have to put up with it because there is nothing you can do.

WRONG! If you have PCOS and you are overweight, it can be more challenging to lose weight than the ‘average’ person, but it is certainly not impossible. The only way you will lose weight and keep it off is by dealing with the underlying factors that cause you to hold onto fat. Fat will not be burned when insulin levels are high, so you need to target insulin resistance by following a low GI diet, doing regular aerobic and resistance exercise every 2 days, maximising your sleep, and taking nutritional supplements. A multivitamin is a good place to start, but insulin resistant people need more magnesium, chromium, and B vitamins as well. If you are taking metformin you should supplement with a multivitamin and separate vitamin B12 tablet. A naturopath can also prescribe you a herbal formula to target insulin resistance.

MYTH 2: If you have PCOS you won’t be able to have kids without the help of IVF.

WRONG! Although having PCOS can make it difficult to conceive, and IVF has helped many women with PCOS to become mothers, it is not the only option for you. There are also many women who have conceived with less invasive treatments, and some even just with natural treatments. With PCOS, ovulation does not always occur regularly, so the first step is to determine if you are ovulating which you can do via blood tests, daily temperature testing, and/or ovulation detector kits (although these may not be 100% accurate for PCOS). If you are, great! it’s a matter of getting the timing right for conception. If not, seek help with naturally stimulating ovulation. Losing 5% of body fat can help restore ovulation, as can reducing stress, dealing with nutritional deficiencies, and restoring hormonal balance with herbal medicine and/or acupuncture. You can still have PCOS and be a mother!

MYTH 3: PCOS is only a real concern if you are trying to conceive.

WRONG! For many women, trying to conceive is the biggest concern they have with PCOS, but PCOS brings with it many other concerns that can be just as challenging. The effect that PCOS has on a woman’s femininity and self esteem cannot be underestimated. Depression can be a real consequence of this and should be taken seriously. The physical issues that occur with PCOS such as excess hair, hair loss, weight gain, and acne can cause a lot of distress and are sometimes dismissed by health professionals as being only a cosmetic problem, when in fact they are a consequence of more serious underlying imbalances. Insulin resistance is a major health concern underlying many PCOS symptoms and should be dealt with as early as possible, to prevent the risk of diabetes. If your symptoms are being dismissed as minor, when you know they are affecting your quality of life… find a new health professional who will take you seriously. It is your right to have a supportive health guide who will not judge or dismiss you.

MYTH 4: PCOS goes away after menopause, or a hysterectomy will fix all my problems.

WRONG! After menopause, a lot of changes occur. Some of your PCOS symptoms may subside such as period problems obviously, but the underlying metabolic causes of PCOS will still be there. Menopause will not cure your PCOS, although it will affect you differently. You may still experience excess hair and acne, weight gain, and sugar cravings. Although the name of the syndrome implies an ovarian basis, cystic ovaries are really just another one of the possible symptoms that you can experience. Don’t be fooled into thinking a hysterectomy will fix all your problems either. As with menopause, it will stop period problems, but it won’t stop the other symptoms. After menopause or a hysterectomy, you are more at risk of weight gain, osteoporosis, hot flushes, and cardiovascular disease. PCOS is a whole body condition that requires a more ‘holistic approach’.

MYTH 5: The oral contraceptive pill will ‘regulate’ my cycle.

SOUNDS RIGHT, BUT IS TECHNICALLY WRONG! Taking the pill will provide your body with artificial hormones to simulate what a normal cycle is supposed to be. It gives you a period regularly which can prevent the lining of the uterus from building up which is beneficial, and it is also a good contraceptive, and can reduce symptoms such as acne and excess hair. BUT, most pills actually make insulin resistance WORSE! Why take something that is going to stimulate one of the main factors contributing to your symptoms? The pill may also increase the development of atherosclerosis, a process that leads to heart disease in which PCOS women are more at risk of. So, the pill is not really regulating your cycle because it is not allowing your body to do the work, it is doing the work for your body. A regulated cycle is one that is occurring regularly of it’s own accord.

(source for above)

I have PCOS — I am never going to be able to have a baby.
MYTH. Some women with PCOS are able to become pregnant with no assistance. Many more are able to become pregnant with minor assistance and others still with IVF. It depends on the severity of your PCOS and what exactly is going on. Your fertility doctor will work with you to figure out where the problem is. Once your doctor has more information, you can work together to figure out the best ways to help you get pregnant.

I would know if I had PCOS.
MYTH. It would not necessarily be obvious that you have PCOS. Though for some women the symptoms are clear-cut, PCOS is associated with a wide range of sometimes-vague symptoms. It can occasionally take years to reach a diagnosis. And there are a few other rare conditions that have similar symptoms. If you are having trouble becoming pregnant and have any of the symptoms of PCOS, talk to your fertility doctor about doing some tests to explore the possibility of PCOS.

I had an ultrasound and it did not show any cysts on my ovaries, so PCOS cannot be the problem.
MYTH. Some women do not show cysts on their ovaries but have other symptoms that lead to them being diagnosed and treated for PCOS. Other women have cysts on their ovaries but do not have PCOS. The presence of cysts can be an important symptom in identifying PCOS, but it is only part of the picture.

Women whose mother or sister has PCOS are more likely to have PCOS.
FACT. There appears to be a genetic component to PCOS.

All women with PCOS are overweight.
MYTH. Many women with PCOS are overweight, but thin women can have PCOS as well. If you have signs and symptoms of PCOS, you should talk to your fertility doctor about the possibility.

I have PCOS — losing weight can improve my chances of becoming pregnant.
FACT. Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can help balance your hormone levels which can help improve your fertility. Because of the way insulin is processed in many women with PCOS, a diet with a low glycemic index may be the most beneficial way to lose weight.

There’s no cure for PCOS.
FACT. But there ARE treatments that can improve your health and fertility. Losing weight is one of the most important things you can do. You may be given clomiphene citrate, which helps you to produce more FSH. If you are also insulin resistant, you may be given a drug called Metformin (or glucophage) that makes you sensitive to insulin and can help return ovulation to normal. Depending on what other symptoms you have, you might be given medication for acne or excess hair growth, too.

(source for above)

Myth: PCOS Only Affects Women in Their 30′s and Beyond

Fact: The fact of the matter is that PCOS does not discriminate based on age. While it was once thought that PCOS only affected pre-menopausal women in their 30s and beyond, the medical community is now recognizing that the condition can affect females of all ages, and even young adolescent girls.

Myth: Women Who Develop PCOS Cannot Have Children

Fact: The truth is that while PCOS can complicate conception, it does not have to prevent you from having a baby. There are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition and, as a result, achieve pregnancy when you are ready.

Myth: All Women Who Have PCOS Have Ovarian Cysts

Fact: The name of this disorder is very misleading. Many women assume that PCOS only exists in women who develop ovarian cysts. This is definitely not true. PCOS is a hormone-related disorder and ovarian cysts, while common in women who have the condition, do not have to be present in order for the disorder to be diagnosed.

Myth: All Women with PCOS Are Overweight

Fact: While PCOS and the resulting insulin resistance can lead to excess weight and obesity, not all women who have PCOS are overweight nor do women who live with this condition have to remain overweight if they are having trouble losing excess pounds. A proper diet and certain insulin-regulating medications can help the weight problems that are commonly caused by this frustrating disorder. If PCOS has led to significant weight changes in your body, there is hope. While you won’t be able to lose the weight overnight, you will be able to fight these changes and get your body back.

Myth: There is No Cure for PCOS

Fact: This myth is technically true. There is no actual “cure” for PCOS. However, there are many treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you take control of the disorder. A proper diet, control of insulin and an active lifestyle can make a significant difference. For example, if you are insulin resistant due to your PCOS, you might be given a prescription called Metformin. If you are suffering from acne, a dermatologist can help you control your acne symptoms. Instead of letting your PCOS control you, these changes will help you control your PCOS.

(source for above)

Myth #1:  If you have PCOS and are overweight, you will not be able to lose weight.
While it may be more difficult for a woman with PCOS to lose weight, it is certainly not impossible.  PCOS affects insulin production, so a change in diet is an important factor to get insulin levels under control.  Also, regular exercise and sufficient sleep are beneficial to women with PCOS who are trying to lose weight.  Adding a multivitamin to your diet can also help to control insulin resistance.

Myth #2:  In vitro fertilization is the only solution for PCOS sufferers.  
PCOS makes conception more difficult, but it is not impossible to conceive naturally despite having PCOS through the use of certain alternative treatments.  An ovulation kit can help you to determine when you are ovulating, and in turn assist in determining the best time to attempt to conceive a child.  Losing weight can also help to increase the likelihood of conceiving a child for those with PCOS.  In some cases, herbal medicines and acupuncture have even been found to have beneficial effects on restoring the ovulation cycle.

Myth #3:  PCOS only affects a woman’s ability to conceive.
While one of the major side effects of PCOS is its affect on fertility, there are a number of other side effects that go along with PCOS that can present challenges.  Weight gain, acne, excess hair growth, and hair loss are all common physical symptoms that require treatment, and can affect a woman’s overall quality of life.  If PCOS symptoms are affecting your quality of life, it is important to speak with a qualified medical professional to learn of the treatment options that are available.

Myth #4:  Hysterectomies solve PCOS.
Some women experience a decrease in PCOS symptoms after menopause, but the underlying causes of the PCOS symptoms may still be present.  Hysterectomies work well to stop period problems, but they do not cure other issues associated with PCOS.

Myth #5:  Birth control pills will regulate the menstrual cycle and cure PCOS.
This is true in the sense that the pill provides artificial hormones that simulate a normal menstrual cycle.  The downside is that most birth control pills actually exacerbate the problem of insulin resistance, which is one of the main factors that contribute to PCOS symptoms.

(source for above)

Myth #1: I don’t plan to have children so it doesn’t matter if I don’t ovulate

Truth: it doesn’t matter if you plan on having children or not, if you don’t ovulate each month, your body is deprived of a vital hormone, progesterone, which means you may be more susceptible to estrogen dominance conditions like fibroids, breast cancer and endometriosis.

Myth #2: I get a period regularly so I must be ovulating

Truth: Having regular periods does not mean that you are ovulating. It just means that estrogen production increases and decreases each month to signal development of the uterine lining and subsequent shedding. Regular ovulation is vital to healthy hormone balance regardless of parenthood plans.

Myth #3: The ultrasound showed no cysts on my ovaries so I can’t have PCOS

Truth: The name is misleading, people with Polycystic ovarian syndrome, do not have to have cysts present on the ovaries. The body breaks down and resolves cysts regularly so cysts can come and go. The syndrome is diagnosed on the basis of the presence of a collection of symptoms that can include some (but not all) of the following: head hair loss, excess facial/body hair, weight gain, insulin resistance, poor glucose tolerance, irregular menstrual cycles, anovulation, infertility, acne and oily skin.

Myth #4: The blood tests were fine so there’s nothing wrong hormonally

Truth: Hormone blood tests are notoriously poor predictors of health or disease. The reference ranges are incredibly broad (eg. for and are set based on an average of the values measured amongst the general population. Reference ranges for hormones should be set by health screening the people being used to set the range for any reproductive disorders such as fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, irregular menses, heavy menses, painful periods, infertility, anovulation etc. Select only those who have perfectly regular periods, who ovulate every month at midcycle, have no evidence of fibroids or endometriosis, no history of reproductive organ problems etc, then use those people to set a healthy range.

Myth #5: If I have endometriosis, PCOS or fibroids, I can’t have children or I can only have children if I undergo aggressive fertility treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Truth: You can have children with any of these conditions, they do not automatically spell infertility. Depending on the severity of the condition, the best course of action may be either combination conventional therapies like drugs and surgery with naturopathic treatment or naturopathic treatment alone may be sufficient to solve the problem.

Myth #6: If there was something that could help with my problem, my specialist would know about it

Truth: Unfortunately not. Most medical doctors have quite enough on their plate to keep abreast of the latest drugs and surgical options and see a wealth of patients every day. They have neither the time nor the interest in investigating naturopathic treatments for disease.

Myth #7: There is no research to support naturopathic therapies

Truth: There is plenty of research to support acupuncture, herbal medicine, vitamins and nutritional supplements. There was a time as little as 10 years ago when research was sparse. Public interest in using more natural therapies has sparked interest in researching remedies that have stood the test of time for hundreds if not thousands of years.

(source for above)

MYTH 1: If you are overweight you will just have to put up with it because there is nothing you can do.

WRONG! If you have PCOS and you are overweight, it can be more challenging to lose weight than the ‘average’ person, but it is certainly not impossible. The only way you will lose weight and keep it off is by dealing with the underlying factors that cause you to hold onto fat. Fat will not be burned when insulin levels are high, so you need to target insulin resistance by following a low GI diet, doing regular aerobic and resistance exercise every 2 days, maximising your sleep, and taking nutritional supplements. A multivitamin is a good place to start, but insulin resistant people need more magnesium, chromium, and B vitamins as well. If you are taking metformin you should supplement with a multivitamin and separate vitamin B12 tablet. A naturopath can also prescribe you a herbal formula to target insulin resistance.

MYTH 2: If you have PCOS you won’t be able to have kids without the help of IVF.

WRONG! Although having PCOS can make it difficult to conceive, and IVF has helped many women with PCOS to become mothers, it is not the only option for you. There are also many women who have conceived with less invasive treatments, and some even just with natural treatments. With PCOS, ovulation does not always occur regularly, so the first step is to determine if you are ovulating which you can do via blood tests, daily temperature testing, and/or ovulation detector kits (although these may not be 100% accurate for PCOS). If you are, great! it’s a matter of getting the timing right for conception. If not, seek help with naturally stimulating ovulation. Losing 5% of body fat can help restore ovulation, as can reducing stress, dealing with nutritional deficiencies, and restoring hormonal balance with herbal medicine and/or acupuncture. You can still have PCOS and be a mother!

MYTH 3: PCOS is only a real concern if you are trying to conceive.

WRONG! For many women, trying to conceive is the biggest concern they have with PCOS, but PCOS brings with it many other concerns that can be just as challenging. The effect that PCOS has on a woman’s femininity and self esteem cannot be underestimated. Depression can be a real consequence of this and should be taken seriously. The physical issues that occur with PCOS such as excess hair, hair loss, weight gain, and acne can cause a lot of distress and are sometimes dismissed by health professionals as being only a cosmetic problem, when in fact they are a consequence of more serious underlying imbalances. Insulin resistance is a major health concern underlying many PCOS symptoms and should be dealt with as early as possible, to prevent the risk of diabetes. If your symptoms are being dismissed as minor, when you know they are affecting your quality of life… find a new health professional who will take you seriously. It is your right to have a supportive health guide who will not judge or dismiss you.

MYTH 4: PCOS goes away after menopause, or a hysterectomy will fix all my problems.

WRONG! After menopause, a lot of changes occur. Some of your PCOS symptoms may subside such as period problems obviously, but the underlying metabolic causes of PCOS will still be there. Menopause will not cure your PCOS, although it will affect you differently. You may still experience excess hair and acne, weight gain, and sugar cravings. Although the name of the syndrome implies an ovarian basis, cystic ovaries are really just another one of the possible symptoms that you can experience. Don’t be fooled into thinking a hysterectomy will fix all your problems either. As with menopause, it will stop period problems, but it won’t stop the other symptoms. After menopause or a hysterectomy, you are more at risk of weight gain, osteoporosis, hot flushes, and cardiovascular disease. PCOS is a whole body condition that requires a more ‘holistic approach’.

MYTH 5: The oral contraceptive pill will ‘regulate’ my cycle.

SOUNDS RIGHT, BUT IS TECHNICALLY WRONG! Taking the pill will provide your body with artificial hormones to simulate what a normal cycle is supposed to be. It gives you a period regularly which can prevent the lining of the uterus from building up which is beneficial, and it is also a good contraceptive, and can reduce symptoms such as acne and excess hair. BUT, most pills actually make insulin resistance WORSE! Why take something that is going to stimulate one of the main factors contributing to your symptoms? The pill may also increase the development of atherosclerosis, a process that leads to heart disease in which PCOS women are more at risk of. So, the pill is not really regulating your cycle because it is not allowing your body to do the work, it is doing the work for your body. A regulated cycle is one that is occurring regularly of it’s own accord.

(source for above)

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