What is PCOS?

From the “Things I wish I knew” PCOS Awareness Week Instagram Series

“PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome” is a combination of symptoms that present in women (usually of childbearing age) when their environment doesn’t play nice with their genetics. I’ve learned some key things over the years that have changed my approach to managing my PCOS. And it all starts with the definition: understanding the “what”. ⁠

3 things I’ve learned when defining PCOS:⁠

(1) The sole presence of cysts is not an indication of PCOS. For e.g. under the Rotterdam criteria (which has its own controversies) you must meet 2 of the following 3 symptoms: signs of elevated male hormones (blood test or through observation), irregular periods, or the presence of cysts on the ovaries. It simply means, you can have a PCOS diagnosis with no cysts! (BTW, it also means if you were diagnosed by ultrasound ONLY, you may not really have PCOS).⁠

(2) The reason multiple cysts are present in our ovaries is because we either don’t ovulate at all (anovulation), or don’t ovulate regularly enough (oligoovulation) ⁠

(3) CEMCOR (The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research) posits that genetically, some of us are just more predisposed to having higher than normal androgens (male hormones) and coupled with impaired ovulation, it drives the classic PCOS symptoms of weight gain, acne, hair loss etc. ⁠

This is why I kinda like CEMCOR’s recoinage of the syndrome from “PCOS” to “Anovulatory Androgen Excess”. ⁠

*I am not a medical expert, and certainly don’t have all the answers, but I believe knowledge isn’t just reserved for the medical experts. The more we know (both medical and body literacy) the more we can advocate for ourselves, and help others out.*⁠

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