Myth #1 – The Birth Control Pill Cures PCOS
If you’ve got PCOS, you’re most likely familiar with the following scenario: You’re at the gynecologist’s office, it’s probably your second visit after the doctor told you that you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome and now you are back to discuss the results from your blood work and other tests. As one of the treatment options for PCOS your doctor prescribes you an oral birth control pill. But is this little pill really going to help you get rid of PCOS? Let’s have a closer look at what birth control really does.
There are two types of oral contraceptive pills. The first version contains estrogen and progestin, which is synthetic progesterone and the second version consists of progestin only and is also known as the “mini-pill”. Birth control helps prevent pregnancy in three different ways: It stops ovulation, prevents the uterine lining from thickening, so that a fertilized egg will have difficulty attaching to it and it thickens the cervical mucus, thus preventing sperm from entering the uterus in the first place. As you can see, birth control’s purpose is to prevent pregnancy.
If this is its purpose, then why is it given to women with PCOS? I remember my second visit at the gynecologist’s office very well. The doctor told me to take birth control because I had polycystic ovaries, which means that the ovaries appear to have small follicles that look like a string of pearls. These cysts can form if there are too many maturing follicles each containing an egg each month due to elevated testosterone levels. They can also be a sign of anovulation. So the doctor told me to take these pills in order to get rid of the cysts. Since birth control stops ovulation and your cycle all together, no new cysts will be able to form.
Another way birth control can help with PCOS is by lowering androgens, which are male hormones like testosterone, for example. High levels of androgens can cause hormonal acne. Thus, taking birth control may help reduce acne in women with PCOS.
When you are on the pill, you usually take it for 21 days and then stop for 2 to 7 days. During this time, you may experience a withdrawal bleed, which should not be confused with an actual period. Many women with PCOS are told that taking an oral contraceptive pill will give them regular periods, but, unfortunately, this is an illusion. When it comes to PCOS, all the pill does is mask the symptoms. It is a temporary band aid that presents itself as a successful PCOS treatment. Sadly, many women are back to square one and even experience worse symptoms like absent or irregular periods, severe acne and hair loss when getting off the pill. Depending on how long you have been taking it, it can take several months for your body to naturally regulate your hormones and your period to come back.
Myth # 2 – You Can’t Get Pregnant if You Have PCOS
Sarah, who I coached and who has now become a good friend of mine, said that when she was first diagnosed with PCOS, she felt disheartened and thought she will get fat and never be able to have a baby. What a sad outlook on life! Unfortunately, a PCOS diagnosis packs a punch and breaks a lot women’s hearts. After all, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women of reproductive age that don’t ovulate. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: It’s also a disease that can be well managed with shifts in diet and lifestyle, the right supplements and medication. Awareness, research and resources are becoming more and more abundant each day!
So, what does it mean to be infertile with PCOS? It means that you have a hard time getting pregnant, because you don’t ovulate. Missing or irregular periods and polycystic ovaries may be an indicator of anovulation. Bringing back the star of your monthly period show, which is the egg popping out of the ovary, is one of the main goals of my PCOS to Happiness Program. Once you start ovulating again and an egg has been fertilized, it’s important to maintain adequate progesterone levels for a healthy pregnancy. I teach you how to do this and more in my 12-week coaching program.
So, to recap, with the right shifts in diet and lifestyle, you can get pregnant naturally. You can also talk to your doctor regarding ovulation inducing medications and further fertility treatments.
Myth #3 – PCOS Only Affects Overweight Women
When it comes to PCOS, the exact causes are still unknown, but genetic, as well as environmental factors seem to play a role. PCOS tends to run in families. A woman with PCOS is very likely to have a mother, aunt or sister with the same condition. Environmental factors such as lifestyle and diet also play a role. The science of epigenetics deals with the influence of environmental factors such as diet, stress or toxins on how our genes are being expressed. An unhealthy diet, high stress levels and obesity are all factors that can contribute to PCOS. Being obese is just one of them.
Women with PCOS, even if they are considered lean, tend to have more abdominal fat, which can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance and worsen PCOS. Studies show that weight loss, even as little as 6%, can help decrease common PCOS symptoms such as polycystic ovaries, high levels of androgens and irregular periods.
Statistics indicate that about 40 to 80% of women with PCOS are obese. This also means that the remaining 20 to 60% are not.
To summarize, PCOS affects both lean and obese women. In women with access weight, a decrease in body mass can help manage PCOS.
I hope this blog post was helpful to you and I was able to debunk some of your misconceptions about PCOS. What other myths have you come across that you would like debunked? Let me know in the comment section below.