Understanding and Navigating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Feeling like something’s off with your period can be frustrating, and knowing where to start for answers isn’t always clear. Whether your period is irregular, months apart, or seems longer than your friends’, finding the cause may be puzzling.

While it’s not very common, you might have PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This condition affects your reproductive system and other body systems, and it can be tricky to spot initially. It’s estimated that almost 1 in 10 women face challenges with PCOS, and many may not even realize they have it.

What Causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome arises from a hormonal imbalance in a woman’s body, particularly an excess of the androgen hormone. The androgen hormone is actually more prevalent in men, however women also have it and more elevated levels of the hormone contribute to PCOS.

Understanding PCOS

The name can be a little misleading, as it is not actually cysts in the ovaries, but built up follicles that never matured into eggs. Nearly every woman has some sort of follicular build up in her ovaries, but PCOS causes an abundance of these follicles. The follicles themselves are not harmful to a woman’s health, but they can cause issues with fertility.  

While the follicles are nearly harmless, PCOS can affect women in other ways. The imbalance of hormones can lead to other health issues like insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. It can also affect your daily life by decreasing your sleep quality, causing painful periods, or making you feel constantly fatigued.

What Are Recognizable Signs of PCOS?

There are many signs to watch for that may indicate PCOS. A few examples are:

  • Fertility issues: Fertility issues can be a common trigger for women to discover they have PCOS. Women with PCOS may experience irregular cycles, leading to challenges with fertility. Moreover, PCOS can increase the risk of miscarriage post-conception. If you’re facing difficulties in conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy, it’s advisable to consult your doctor to explore the possibility of PCOS.
  • Excessive hair growth: Due to the presence of increased male sex hormones (androgens), women may notice heightened hair growth in areas where they typically have less hair, like the chin and arms. Treatment options are available, so it’s advisable to consult your doctor for guidance on this matter. 
  • Weight gain/obesity: Due to hormone imbalances in PCOS, many women with this condition encounter challenges in maintaining a healthy weight. Lifestyle adjustments and medications can aid in managing this issue, so it’s advisable to seek guidance from your healthcare provider.
  • Painful periods: If a woman has PCOS, some of these follicles will release and be shed during her period. This process can be quite painful, causing some women to struggle with their daily activities. If period pain is disrupting your life, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor.
  • Irregular periods: Periods that deviate from the norm are common among women with PCOS. Since hormones regulate the menstrual cycle, the imbalances associated with PCOS can have a significant impact on it. Many women with PCOS either have irregular periods or experience long gaps between them. It’s crucial to communicate any cycle irregularities to your doctor.

Managing PCOS

PCOS is a chronic condition, meaning it can’t be cured. However, you can manage your symptoms effectively. The initial step is to see your doctor if you suspect you have PCOS based on the symptoms mentioned earlier. Consulting your doctor will provide you with access to medications and treatments that may not be available otherwise. These treatments can involve hormone therapies, commonly used to enhance insulin effectiveness or lower androgen production.

Some women opt for a dairy and gluten-free diet in addition to medications and treatments, focusing on high protein intake. Going gluten-free may combat insulin resistance, while dairy can worsen period pain due to its inflammatory nature. By eliminating these and increasing protein intake, women can effectively balance hormones and alleviate symptoms. It’s advisable to consult your doctor to find a suitable diet. Your doctor might recommend a nutritionist to address your unique symptoms.

At Care Net Milwaukee, we aim to not just inform you, but to  empower you with knowledge that could lead to a healthier life. Understanding why your period could be late or irregular is a crucial first step toward managing your symptoms. If you suspect PCOS, consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and a plan to alleviate your symptoms.


Care Net has been serving Milwaukee area women since 1985 and through this blog, we hope to continue sharing with the greater community peace, hope, and information related to pregnancy.