Let’s Talk About PCOS

Sometime in the fall of 2016, I went to urgent care because something didn’t feel right. I was was feeling crampy, nauseated and a lot of other things. After asking me some “standard” questions, the nurse practitioner announced, “You have PCOS, I’ll give you a prescription for metformin.”

From what I can recall, she didn’t give much detail other than, “you’re overweight so this is why your period is late.” and I was left to my own devices to figure out what the hell this thing was. I was never asked about the excessive body hair (ya girl has shaved at a stop light before on the way to an event because a full mustache appeared seemingly overnight), diet, hair thinning, or even actually tested for anything. How you could be diagnosed with something without any tests was beyond me. Anytime I’ve mentioned PCOS at a doctor’s appointment after that, I was only asked “Are you taking birth control?” or it was passed off as, “Oh, that’s pretty common.” Not a single health care provider seemed to care enough to ask further questions, provide guidance or be sure I was properly educated on PCOS. Even when the answer to being on birth control was no. Actually, I took Metformin for about 2 or 3 weeks and quit taking it because my body just could not adjust to it at all. It made me feel worse and created quite a few disruptions to my day. September is recognized as PCOS Awareness Month and as a teal cystar, I thought it would be a great time to share a bit of my journey.

What Exactly is PCOS?

PCOS also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal disorder affecting women in their reproductive years. While the exact cause is unknown, PCOS can cause prolonged or infrequent menstrual cycles in addition to an overproduction of male hormone levels. Other common symptoms of PCOS is acne, skin tags, infertility and insulin resistance. While there is no cure, it is treatable and some people have credited lifestyle changes to the erasure of symptoms.

Debunking The Myths & Misconceptions

Tianna Trinidad, (RN, BSN, MHL ) PCOS Hormone Health Coach and Founder of Love Served Warm

There are many things surrounding PCOS that I still do not understand, even 6 years after diagnosis, in fact, the more I research the more I see that myself and others still are left in the dark with unanswered questions. I had the opportunity to chat with Tianna Trinidad; a PCOS Hormone Health Coach to get answers on some of the common questions surrounding the diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

What are some common misconceptions around PCOS? 

Some of the biggest misconceptions with PCOS is that it only affects women who are overweight. Another common misconception about PCOS is that it is necessary to have cysts on your ovary to be diagnosed.

Many women are unaware that there is more than one kind of PCOS, what are the types?

There are four different kinds of PCOS. The first is inflammatory. This is caused by chronic inflammation in the body. Next is adrenal fatigue. This is when a women has only elevated DHEAS but normal testosterone and androstenedione levels. The third kind of PCOS is post pill. We see this when someone has the symptoms of PCOS, but they do not have insulin resistance and have a history of birth control use, Lastly, is insulin resistance, it accounts for 70% of PCOS cases and caused by high levels of insulin

How is PCOS diagnosed? Does diagnosis vary based on type?

Experts believe 1 in 5 women (others say 1 in 10) are effected by this disorder. PCOS is diagnosed when women present with two or more of the following symptoms: Irregular periods, increased Androgen (male hormones) or cysts on the ovaries (diagnosed by ultrasound).
PCOS diagnosis can vary by type because women who do not present with the most common form of PCOS; insulin resistance can face some barriers to getting diagnosed due to lack of knowledge surrounding PCOS in the medical field.

It is common for providers to prescribe birth control or metformin as a treatment for PCOS, are there alternative treatment options?

Birth control and Metformin are the most commonly prescribed treatments for women with PCOS. Unfortunately women are not educated on other treatment options that pose the same or have reported better results in managing their PCOS. Alternative treatments include focusing on dietary and lifestyle changes that aim to decrease inflammation and balance hormones. 

Do you believe this disorder affects mental health?

Yes, it is reported that up to 60% of women with PCOS suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Why did you decide to specialize in this particular disorder? 

I decided to specialize in helping women with PCOS after losing my first pregnancy at six months due to hormonal imbalances. I fell apart, and as a medical health professional I couldn’t find the resources or help to bridge that gap in healing and lack of education. So I set out to become the solution. I wanted to create something where I could serve love to women on a similar journey as me.   

PCOS seems to trigger two areas the most, weight loss and pregnancy. Can those with PCOS achieve weight loss goals or have healthy pregnancies? 

PCOS two most triggered areas are no more than the common problems women experience with PCOS, however it in no way describes their fate. Weight gain is a consequence of metabolic dysfunction. Think of a broken AC thermostat that is unable to regulate the temperature of the home. With PCOS women have trouble regulating their weight because their thermostat, aka their hormones are imbalanced. Once the hormonal imbalances are corrected, the weight gain will subside.
As far as pregnancies for women with PCOS, it is very possible. The first step is to ensure that the woman is experiencing healthy ovulation monthly. If she isn’t, which is the case with many women with PCOS, then the next step would be to get to the source of inflammation and the cause of the cessation of ovulation.

What kind of screenings or tests should women be asking their doctors for?

While there is no specific test for the diagnosis of PCOS, women should be aware of the common signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances so that they can advocate for themselves at the doctors office. Women should be requesting insulin resistance blood tests, as insulin resistance drives 70% of PCOS cases and is rarely checked by most physicians. Most doctors never go past checking blood sugar levels, when it goes so much deeper. 

For more information on PCOS including resources, please visit the PCOS Awareness Association as well as Tianna’s website; Love Served Warm. You can also find her on Instagram where she shares tips for advocacy, awareness videos and host educational lives.

Published by thelifeofronny

North Carolina native, Ronny Maye is a mental health advocate, travel writer, and lifestyle content creator with bylines in publications such as Yahoo Canada, Reader's Digest, The Points Guy, Insider, Fodor's, Very Well, and more. She started sharing her travels to create a space for those who are apprehensive to do so as solo travelers, female travelers, plus-size travelers, and/or Black travelers. Intersecting all of these margins, Ronny’s travel content focuses on magnifying Black voices in addition to accessibility, inclusion, and travel tips/hacks.

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