This term gets thrown around a lot as a possible diagnosis when women aren’t having regular periods. It’s important to rule-out other reasons for irregular periods before diagnosing PCOS.
The most common reasons for irregular bleeding are:
- recent puberty
- chronic stress altering your cortisol levels (which interferes with your estrogen/progesterone ratio)
- being on (or recently getting off) a hormonal birth control, like OCPs, depo provera, Nuvaring, minipill, Mirena, Kyleena, or Skyla IUD.
- recent pregnancy or miscarriage
- use of Plan B pill
- abnormal thyroid function
Once these other causes for irregular bleeding have been ruled out, you also must have these 2 out of 3 criteria listed:
- irregular periods (usually only having them every few months)
- elevated androgens seen through lab work or by male pattern hair growth and acne,
- polycystic ovaries seen on ultrasound (often described as a string of pearls)
Why is it so important to get the diagnosis correct?
Because PCOS puts you at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. Many women are actually diagnosed after presenting with weight gain, blood sugar issues, and infertility. PCOS is called a “syndrome” because it’s a constellation of symptoms brought on by metabolic dysfunction. We see chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance (like diabetes), which perpetuates hormone dysfunction.
PCOS is most successfully managed with major lifestyle intervention: diet, exercise, weight loss, good sleep habits, avoiding smoking, and creating meaningful, nourishing relationships.
With the proper guidance, you can reduce your chances of going on to develop diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease!
Are you concerned about possibly having PCOS? Make an appointment with me to start the process of diagnosing and treating this condition. With functional medicine, you CAN avoid developing these other complications AND see LASTING improvements in your overall health and energy.