Becoming a mother is every woman’s dream and is an experience to be cherished for a lifetime. However given today’s high-profile setting when it comes to jobs, a working woman, in particular, can find it very tough in some cases to even conceive to realise her dream. One such road-block commonly encountered these days is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.
This blog is a result of my interaction with a woman suffering from PCOS and through sheer persistence successfully tackled it and became a mother. This, in short, is definitely an ode to her inner strength and resilience.
Medical definition for PCOS and what causes it:
A natural progression after marriage is child-birth (generally speaking) and this is exactly when a woman tends to become conscious about everything related to her overall health to conceive without any worries. PCOS is one complex medical issue which is being continuously researched to understand it in greater detail. It is commonly identified as an endocrinal disorder accompanied by a host of other health issues seen in women and is known to directly affect fertility. Characteristics associated with this are the presence of multiple ovarian cysts, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles or total absence of it and increased androgen (male hormone) levels.
Some of the prominent causes of PCOS are variation in genetic composition, resistance to insulin, abnormal fetal development and can be further aggravated by improper diet, sedentary lifestyle and exposure to toxic environment leading to a host of other health complications of grave magnitude. Women with a genetic history (in the family) of PCOS are at greater risk of developing it and the genetic expression of the developing foetus gets altered due to an increased presence of androgen. In-depth DNA analysis is leading to particular interest in the gene which is responsible for Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), its secretion and the possible disruption in its regulation and how it affects the ovarian function. Further, the levels of Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Testosterone are of importance in this context.
The pancreatic hormone insulin is responsible for converting glucose to energy and thereby is responsible for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. Insulin resistance leads to the pancreas over-working to produce more insulin and this will result in ovaries secreting more testosterone, as and when signalled by insulin, which affects the adequate production of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). Also excess insulin results in increased Estrogen levels which can possibly suppress ovulation process. Women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation which causes insulin resistance. Certain foods and toxins in the environment cause it and the white blood cells produce substances to encounter this inflammation leading to atherosclerosis and insulin resistance.
Diagnosis of PCOS:
Since PCOS has been categorised as a host of health issues, elaborate medical tests are required to diagnose and treat it. Levels of hormones like LH, Testosterone, FSH, Progesterone, Estradiol, Prolactin, Androgen and SHBG should be checked. Tests like Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT), endometrial biopsy, thyroid and Lipid profile should be done.
Symptoms of PCOS:
Noticeably seen signs are excessive hirsutism (body hair), anovulatory cycles, excessive menstrual bleeding, mid-cycle bleeding, mood swings, acne, alopecia (balding), obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, Acanthosis nigricans ( skin darkening in the arm-pits, neck and groin), polycystic ovary, frequent miscarriages, history of ovarian cysts and also complete absence of periods.
Associated health risks:
PCOS can lead to diabetes in women, cardiovascular diseases, the risk of endometrial and breast cancer, infertility, gestational diabetes and menstrual cycle irregularities.
Treatment for PCOS:
Doctors prescribe oral contraceptives to regularise irregular periods but this proves to be tough for women trying to conceive since they can lead to reproductive issues in the long run. Drugs are also prescribed to check on insulin resistance. Regular medical checks are very important for women suffering from PCOS. Herbs and supplements may also be prescribed if required.
A well-balanced diet to tackle PCOS proves helpful in that it should be an adequate mix of proteins and carbohydrates on daily basis. Fruits, vegetables, grains like brown rice, quinoa, nuts etc., are good for this condition. However, foods which are high on glycemic index like sugar, alcoholic drinks, coffee, white bread, pasta etc., should be avoided. Consumption of organic foods helps since they contain more proteins, vitamins and minerals. Diet should also include high fibre content, essential fatty acids and meals should be split into 4-5 smaller segments which will help balance metabolism.
It would be good to take up aerobic and resistance exercises like treadmill runs, yoga or dance like Zumba, lifting weights and Pilates on regular basis to increase metabolism and reduce weights.
Women should not shy away in discussing their health concerns with their health-care providers. Most importantly it is not necessary that all women with PCOS will have all the issues outlined here. One should not forget that the fruit of sustained patience and perseverance tends to be sweeter, so stay calm if you are one of those tackling this condition, while you ready to achieve your much-desired goal of becoming a mother.