Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a disorder that affects almost 20% of women of reproductive age. It’s very likely that you know someone who has it, and if you do, it’s never a bad idea to inform yourself and try to understand what it would be like to live with PCOS.
Our bodies depend a lot on hormones. Hormones are like little chemical messengers that run through our body and let it know what to do, or how to feel. Women have higher levels of the hormone estrogen, which is responsible for the development of reproductive organs and the breasts, as well as the regulation of menstruation and ovulation. They normally have lower levels of testosterone, while men have very high levels of this hormone. Testosterone is responsible for hair growth on the body, hair loss on the head, and sexual development in males.
But what happens with PCOS? Well, women with the condition have very low levels of estrogen. Sometimes the estrogen is muted out by high levels of testosterone. Because of the excess of testosterone in the system, they end up with a variety of symptoms.
First, many have absent or very sporadic menstrual cycles. They don’t often ovulate. The hormonal imbalance can lead to hair loss, acne, depression, and mood swings. Sometimes unwanted hair growth is present on the chin, upper lip, between the thighs, nipples, or on the fingers and toes.
The ovaries, where estrogen is normally released, has difficulty ovulating, and can lead to painful periods, pain during sex, and infertility. The ovaries don’t always release eggs. And, if by chance a woman with PCOS does become pregnant, many times she will have trouble staying pregnant.
Another devastating effect is that there are metabolic abnormalities, meaning that they gain weight, even when trying to lose it. It is extremely difficult to lose weight with PCOS.
Many women struggle with this syndrome and the best you can do is be informed, be kind, because for those suffering from PCOS, it’s not an easy path.