PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a common condition among women within their reproductive age. Yet, it is something that women are discouraged from talking about. Thus, resulting in misconceptions, lack of diagnosis, taboos, and medical negligence particularly in India, where the reproductive health of a woman is a hush-hush subject, it is essential for women to know more about PCOS.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder, recognized by the formation of fluid-filled follicles in the ovary resembling little beads that prevent ovulation. This results in multiple complications and problems about which women don’t feel comfortable to talk about.

Effects of PCOS

While most people without an ovary - or with one that’s not dotted with follicles - don’t understand the repercussions of PCOS, only the sufferer knows what the exact effects may be. PCOS can result in irregular and/or prolonged menstruation, with crippling abdominal pains before, during and after the menstrual cycle. What makes the situation scary is the discharge of blood in the form of clots, with a brown or pink shade.

Apart from these, you get excessive hair growth in unwanted areas like the face, as a result of increased secretion of male hormones in the body. PCOS also results in severe acne breakouts and thinning of hair where it matters, i.e., the top of the head. You can even gain weight due to PCOS. It can also cause mood swings, lower sex drive, and painful intercourse. Women with untreated PCOS may face challenges while conceiving, and can even develop problems like Type II diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Things to do

When you start noticing the above symptoms, especially abdominal pain and irregular and prolonged menstruation, you can pretty much assume it’s PCOS. Instead of panicking, feeling embarrassed to talk about it, or feeling depressed with the assumption that you’ll never be a mother, take the right steps to get your condition treated.

a) Find a doctor who understands you

Instead of simply following home remedies suggested by grandmas and Facebook groups, the first and foremost thing to do is to visit a gynaecologist. Discuss your issues in details. It is important to remember that gynaecologists, especially in India, often tend to ignore the gravity of the patient’s problem. Additionally, instead of offering permanent solutions, they prescribe pain killers or say that things will get better ‘after marriage’. Don’t be afraid to go to a different doctor for better advice and treatment.

You may also consider consulting a female gynaecologist, if you feel more comfortable discussing your problems with a lady.

b) Don’t be ashamed of using birth control pills, if prescribed

Birth control pills prevent further growth of follicles. They bring the cycle under control and also prevent pain and clotting. However, they have a terrible reputation. Many women complain about acne, mood swings, etc. as a result of birth control pills. This is often true because they either buy OTC pills or do not go back to their doctor for a second consultation. Pills have various power levels and those with lower levels of estrogen will cause less hormonal upheaval in the body.

c) Don’t gobble down painkillers

Painkillers are temporary solutions to the crippling menstrual pain. Yes, you might have the temptation to pop one; after all, research says that menstrual pain can be as intense as a heart attack (according to a professor at University College London). But in the long run, the painkillers can be harmful to the body. You may also develop drug resistance.

d) Practise Yoga and Kegel exercise

The most common answer to PCOS is yoga and kegel exercise. While these may not be the sole solution to your problems, they actually can do wonders to your body, when paired with proper treatment, a well-designed diet, and a healthy lifestyle.

Remember that PCOS is a common problem, and despite what people might say, don’t blame yourself for it. Also, remember not to get into a panic mode about your possible infertility. While PCOS is one of the reasons for infertility among women, it is also true that with proper treatment, you can definitely become a mom. Seek counselling, if necessary. You should only rely on professionals for your medical advice. PCOS is a taboo, and you are the only one who can break it.