Because symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) vary substantially, it can make receiving a diagnosis difficult for many women. If you have PCOS or think you might have PCOS, it can be confusing. It may also lead you to ask many questions. You may be wondering, “what is PCOS?” and “are there other women out there like me?” In this article, we will answer some of these questions and provide you with helpful PCOS support resources.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is an endocrine disorder that may affect as many 10 million women and teenage girls worldwide. The exact cause of PCOS is not known. Researchers think that there are environmental and genetic factors may play a role in the development of PCOS. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance which creates problems in the ovaries. These ovarian issues, in turn, lead to irregular or missed menstrual periods.
PCOS is the leading cause of infertility and can be linked to symptoms that affect both health and appearance. In addition to infertility, some common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Unwanted hair growth (also known as hirsutism)
- Thinning hair on the head
- Mood changes
- Pelvic pain
- Sleep problems
There is no cure for PCOS. However, early diagnosis and management is important and can help manage your symptoms. Following a healthful diet and exercising daily are important strategies you can use if you’ve been diagnosed. These diet and lifestyle changes can also reduce your chances of developing other health concerns.
Talking to others with PCOS and practitioners who specialize in PCOS about exercise and diet can be a source of support and motivation. Meeting online or in person can help you strategize on what you can do. It is good to know that you’re not alone, and it is encouraging to hear what has worked for others. PCOS-friendly gadgets can help you stay on track with your health goals, too.
One of the best ways to tackle potential challenges is to educate yourself about PCOS. Here are some resources that have helped many women better understand PCOS.
- PCOS Challenge – The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association provides educational resources and raises public awareness. It helps girls and women overcome symptoms and reduce the incidence of PCOS-related diseases. Joining this group is easy, and continues to be a leading PCOS advocacy and education resource. Their events bring together clinicians, researchers, and women with PCOS. At these events, you’ll about hear others’ experiences with PCOS and learn about the latest clinical advances.
- The PCOS Nutrition Center, founded by Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN, is a full-service site that supplies expert advice to help you make lasting changes to your eating, health, and fertility.
- Julie Dillon, a nutrition therapist and eating disorder specialist, offers blogs, coaching and podcasts aimed at helping women with PCOS promote health and make peace with food.
- PCOS Diet Support offers a 7-part module series to learn about PCOS including strategies for handling symptoms. This site also offers free resources including blogs, podcasts, a PCOS Starter Kit and a PCOS to Pregnant Kit.
- Erika Volk is a PCOS expert and personal trainer. She offers free blogs and 12 months of workout videos and meal plans to keep you motivated and inspired.
- PCOS Diva Amy Medling has a wealth of information available on her website including a podcast, blog, meal plans and a book, Healing PCOS.
- Hilary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN, offers PCOS tips and a blog and has a book, The PCOS Diet Plan, that includes day-to-day strategies, sample meal plans, and shopping and snack lists.
- The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development site includes information on diagnosis, treatments and research information including scientific articles.
Online you’ll find a community of women with PCOS, as well as health experts who can lend support and encouragement. These online support resources may even make you aware of new strategies to help manage your symptoms of PCOS. Here are some ideas:
- The PCOS Awareness Association has a social network, and they invite you to sign up with the following message: “myPCOSteam is the only social network where you can truly connect, make real friendships, and share daily ups and downs in a judgment-free place.”
- Ashley Levinson heads up a Facebook group called PCOSgurls Guide to Life with PCOS. This group offers a place to learn and share with others. You’ll also read posts about events, advice, and strategies for dealing with PCOS.
Gadgets To Help You Manage PCOS
Everyone can use some motivation to exercise and eat healthfully. Here are some PCOS-friendly gadgets that can help you keep your health on track.
- A Fitbit can help women with PCOS track steps, exercise, sleep and food intake as well as set reminders for medications.
- The Portion Plate can help women with PCOS manage food portions to help with weight management. One half of the plate is portioned for vegetables, and the other half is divided evenly between whole grains and lean protein. There is a small portion in the middle for fats.
- If you are measuring your blood sugar, the Contour Next One is highly rated for accuracy and simplicity. It allows you to view and track trends in your blood sugar levels. This device also lets you share information with your healthcare provider. What’s more, the Contour Next One has a feature called second-chance sampling. This feature allows you one minute to apply blood to the same test strip to prevent wasting test strips.
- Women with PCOS can benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to improve insulin resistance and decrease body fat percentage. HIIT cardiovascular workouts are at least 32 minutes long, and they include a short warmup and cool down with the workout portion including timed high-intensity and moderate-intensity intervals. An app from Deltaworks called Interval Timer can make it easy to customize your workouts and measure your training intervals to keep you on track and motivated throughout your workout.
- OvuSense is an ovulation predictor that works for women with PCOS who may be struggling with infertility. If you do ovulate, even if you ovulate sporadically, this tool can help you determine your most fertile days using core temperature technology.
In-Person Advocacy Events
Although we live in an online world, it’s also refreshing to connect in person. The PCOS Awareness Association offers a variety of 5K Walks and other events throughout the USA to raise awareness of PCOS and necessary funds for research. Many of the walks are hosted throughout cities across the United States. Also, Shelby Eckard, PCOS Support Girl, often posts about events and has a large community of members who provide support to one another.
Remember that although it is great to get feedback from others with PCOS, medical questions should always be run by your healthcare professional. It is, however, reassuring that you are not alone, and support is easy to find at one of the events in person – or just a click away.
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