PCOS symptoms – Do I have PCOS?
9th March 2020
We’ve launched the Adia Quiz series! Our PCOS quiz helps you get familiar with PCOS symptoms to help understand your risk of PCOS, endometriosis and fibroids.
These are common conditions, but sometimes misunderstood and under-researched. We give you an easy way to get familiar with PCOS symptoms through a short quiz. This isn’t to alarm you, but help you understand your body so you can access expert help if you need it.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting approximately 1 in 5 women. PCOS affects how your ovaries work, thus impacting fertility. PCOS has three main features that lead to clinical diagnosis, and these aren’t the same as symptoms. These are:
- Irregular or no ovulation (experienced as irregular periods)
- Excess levels of male hormone in the body
- ‘Polycystic’ ovaries may be enlarged and contain follicles surrounding the eggs
Do I have PCOS?
If you have at least two of the above features, you could be diagnosed with PCOS. Our 2-minute quiz is designed based on these features, to give a simple indication of risk. It’s a great first step towards understanding your cycle and body.
Doctors may recommend an ultrasound, or test your anti-Müllerian hormone levels to confirm a diagnosis. Our expert OBGYN, Dr Linda Farahani, talks about the relationship between AMH and PCOS here if you want to learn more.
What does ‘polycystic’ mean?
Despite the term ‘polycystic’ in the name of the condition, having PCOS doesn’t mean you’ve got cysts on your ovaries. The ‘polycystic’ in PCOS refers to the appearance of harmless follicles, not cysts. This article by Tommy’s does a great job explaining the differences between having cysts on your ovaries, vs. PCOS.
PCOS and fertility
These follicles are where eggs develop. In PCOS, follicles are often unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation doesn’t take place. Because of irregular or absent ovulation, infertility occurs in 70-80% of women with PCOS. However, ovulation treatment is successful almost 70% of the time, meaning many women conceive and have healthy children despite PCOS.
One thing’s certain: PCOS has an impact on fertility and overall health. So, it makes sense to take simple steps to check if you’ve got PCOS, and understand your symptoms.
Over half of women with PCOS don’t have any symptoms. However, signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods, or none at all
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Excess hair growth on the face, chest, back and butt
- Weight gain
- Acne, or oily skin
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
Managing PCOS symptoms
PCOS is associated with an increased risk of high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. So, eating a healthy low glycemic index diet can help manage symptoms and future-proof your health. Our nutritionists can help simplify this for you, and you can contact them free of charge via the Adia.
The NHS suggest weight loss of even 5% of your body weight can help reduce symptom severity. Remember, permanently losing weight can be a difficult journey in itself. Don’t do it alone: reach out to our nutritionists, or local support groups.
Treatment for PCOS symptoms
As mentioned earlier, irregular or no periods can mean you’re not ovulating, which can make it difficult to get pregnant. Infertility treatment for women with PCOS is something you’ll need to talk to your healthcare provider about.
Treatments include medicine to stimulate ovulation, such as Clomiphene. Research also indicates hormone-replacement therapy like Letrozole could be effective. In the UK, women who don’t respond to first-line treatment may be recommended laparoscopic ‘ovarian drilling’. This is minor surgery that can restore hormonal balance and ovarian function.
What if I have PCOS?
If you take our short quiz and are at risk of PCOS, talk to our experts or your doctor. Knowing you have PCOS can help you manage symptoms, so don’t worry. Research shows women who received a PCOS diagnosis earlier in life are more satisfied about concerns like losing weight, infertility and irregular cycles, compared to those with delayed diagnoses.