Anyone in the women’s health field has heard their fair share of harmful myths about women’s bodies. It’s why we’ve already busted incontinence myths and broken down 5 myths about pelvic pain. Today we’re tackling 5 of the most harmful myths about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a hormonal disorder linked to an excess androgen (male hormones) that affects the ovaries of women of childbearing age. To have this condition, you must have at least two of the following symptoms: 1. Cysts on your ovaries, which can make it difficult for them to function. 2. Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged periods. 3. Physical symptoms related to excess androgen such as excess hair, acne, and/or male-pattern baldness.
Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS (noting that the condition is under-diagnosed), understanding what makes the following myths inaccurate can empower you to make better informed decisions about your overall pelvic and reproductive health. Let’s jump in.
PCOS Myth #1: PCOS Is All About Cysts
Cysts. It’s in the name of this condition, so it’s understandable why many people believe PCOS and ovarian cysts are synonymous. The reality is that women with PCOS may or may not have cysts. Also, it is possible to have cysts but not have PCOS.
If that sounds confusing, just remember that you only have to present with 2 of the 3 symptoms to have PCOS. Cysts don’t have to be one of them.
Myth #2: Women With PCOS Can’t Get Pregnant
This is a very dangerous myth. Yes, PCOS can lead to infertility for some women. But having infrequent or irregular periods is not the same thing as being infertile. If you have PCOS, you should still use contraception if you are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant.
Myth #3: If You Have An Irregular Cycle, You Must Have PCOS
PCOS is far from the only reason you may be experiencing abnormal menstruation. And if you experience abnormal menstruation, you are not alone, as between 9% and 14% of women who have started menstruating, and aren’t yet in menopause, will have irregular periods.1
The reality is that there is a host of things that could lead to irregular cycles, ranging from stress, poor nutrition and extreme weight gain or loss, to conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis and uterine fibroids.
Regardless, if you are experiencing an irregular menstrual cycle, you should speak to your doctor.
Myth #4: PCOS Can Only Affect Overweight or Obese Women
It is true that being overweight or obese can contribute to PCOS or make symptoms worse. And it is also true that losing 5% – 10% of initial body weight (considered modest weight loss) has been shown to improve many PCOS symptoms.2
That said, we still don’t fully understand PCOS or what causes it. So don’t think that just because you are not overweight, you can’t have this condition.
Myth #5: PCOS Is Not Serious Unless You Want To Get Pregnant
This may be the most harmful of all PCOS myths. No, PCOS is not a life sentence. But it can have serious complications that can drastically impact your health and quality of life. As discussed, it can lead to infertility.3 It is also linked to sleep apnea, endometrial cancer and depression, liver inflammation, and Type 2 diabetes among other complications.4
Just as important, PCOS can be treated using various medicinal and lifestyle interventions. There are also surgery options available.
That’s why it’s so important that you don’t listen to these PCOS myths! If you believe you may have this condition, please seek medical treatment. If you need help finding a pelvic health specialist in your area, use our free Physician Finder to get started.