Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects women all around the world. In the US alone, it has affected up to 5 million women of reproductive age. This common hormonal problem can affect one’s period and cause several other complications if not addressed. Women with PCOS may have small cysts on their ovaries, have trouble ovulating, and have high levels of androgens (a group of hormones responsible for male traits in reproduction). From gaining weight to having irregular menstrual periods, there are various ways that PCOS can affect your period. Read on to understand how to spot these signs and what you can do about them.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
PCOS can affect the menstrual cycle significantly enough that it can cause irregularities. This is because there is a high level of androgens, such as testosterone, that can interfere with the menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation in those with PCOS. Due to the hormonal imbalances of the condition, a woman’s follicle or egg doesn’t mature or get released. Instead, it stays in the ovaries and is often referred to as a cyst when seen on an ultrasound. And without a mature follicle released combined with the hormonal events leading up to it, the uterus does not get stimulated to build and shed its lining, resulting in a missed or irregular period.
A common treatment for irregular cycles is over-the-counter or prescribed birth control pills. Remember, it's best to consult your physician before starting this type of medication.
Another one of the tell-tale signs of PCOS is weight gain. The condition makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin to convert sugars and starches into energy. Due to this resistance, insulin and glucose can build up in the bloodstream and cause weight gain.
Those looking to manage their weight should consult a professional before doing so, especially since the weight gain is due to specific circumstances outside your control. For those worried about the waiting times to see a specialist doctor, there are other options. A nurse with a master’s of science in nursing will be able to provide advice on your diet to help you with a weight management program. Since they often interact with doctors, patients, and caregivers alike, they can best craft programs with consideration to your PCOS, diet, physical activity. Managing your weight and cravings if you have PCOS can be challenging, but doing little things such as choosing guilt-free period snacks can make it a little bit easier.
Pain and Cramps
When women who have PCOS do get their periods, it can sometimes be accompanied by pain and heavy blood flow. Dysmenorrhea, or cramping as it is commonly called, is often present when women with PCOS have their cycle. Others may have menstrual cramps so severe that they are debilitating. The hormonal imbalances that cause the condition can also aggravate the cysts that are causing pain in the pelvic area, causing periods to be painful and heavy.
While some women find relief in applying a hot compress and taking over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol, birth control pills can also help lighten the flow of one's period in addition to keeping it regular. There are also wearable solutions like the Livia, which can relieve period pain through micro-pulse technology, all while being safe, compact, and easy to use.
Acne and Oily Skin
Due to the high amount of androgens in the hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS, women may also experience the development of acne. These hormones cause glands in the skin to produce an excessive amount of sebum, which is an oily substance that can clog pores and lead to inflammation. Acne occurs when a combination of dead skin cells and sebum builds up inside hair follicles. This often traps bacteria underneath the skin, thereby causing pimples. Women with PCOS may develop acne in different parts of the body, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back.
Seeing a dermatologist is the best solution for this as there are several ways to address hormonal acne. Some will prescribe antibiotics while others will recommend treatments like retinoic acid to manage these symptoms.
Understanding how PCOS affects your period is essential to maintaining your health. By reaching out to your physician, you can work together to reduce these symptoms and have a stress-free period.
Prepared by Rose Jared for mylivia.com