How to Cope When You’ve Been Diagnosed with PCOS

SimpleHealth
SimpleHealth
Published: November 3, 2021Updated: November 29, 2021

Author: Kristen Geil

Reviewed by: Lisa Czanko, MD, MPH

So, after dealing with mysterious symptoms like irregular periods, acne, or excess body hair, your doctor has given you a diagnosis: polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS for short). You might be surprised and a little confused. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with your PCOS diagnosis, resources for living with PCOS, and advice on how to ask your support system for help.

What is polycystic ovary syndrome?

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can manifest as a combination of cysts on the ovaries, excess facial and body hair, irregular or missed periods, obesity, or high blood sugar. 

PCOS is estimated to affect 10-20% of women in the United States, but it’s still underdiagnosed. That means that it can sometimes be hard for newly-diagnosed people to find the resources and support they need. 

First, make a treatment plan with your doctor

While there’s no cure for PCOS, birth control is often used as a way to manage symptoms. The combination pill contains estrogen and progestin, so taking the pill can help address hormonal imbalances and help regulate ovulation. The pill can be used long term, and it’s affordable and accessible. Plus, if you ever decide you want to get pregnant, you can simply stop taking the pill. As always, talk to your doctor about your specific circumstances before making any medication changes.

Lifestyle changes for PCOS symptoms

Aside from birth control for PCOS, there are a few lifestyle changes that may help you manage your symptoms, too. 

Nutrition. People with PCOS often have higher insulin levels, which can further affect hormones and exacerbate symptoms. To combat this, make sure your diet is high in fiber, which slows down your digestion and reduces how quickly sugar is absorbed by your body. You can also add in healthy foods, such as tomatoes, leafy greens, almonds, walnuts, and olive oil.

Exercise. PCOS can lead to insulin resistance, which impacts your body’s ability to use blood sugar for energy. Being inactive can also lead to insulin resistance, so exercise is an important part of caring for yourself with PCOS. Most types of movement work, as long as it’s something you enjoy and will want to make part of your regular routine. Additionally, strength training in particular has been shown to help manage insulin resistance in patients with diabetes. So, it might be similarly effective for PCOS. Make sure to check with your doctor to discuss the exercise regimen that’s right for you.

new hobby, and finding other self-care rituals are all good ideas. You might even consider finding a therapist who specializes in chronic illness as an extra resource in your mental health toolkit. 

 

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How to talk to your friends and family about PCOS

It might feel intimidating to talk to your friends and family about PCOS; after all, PCOS is often underdiagnosed, so many people might not even know what it is or how it affects you. At the same time, you don’t have to go through this alone. Asking for help and support from your friends and family can make your PCOS journey easier. Here are a few tips for talking about PCOS with your friends and family.

Be clear and concise when sharing your PCOS journey. Let your family and friends know exactly what PCOS is, how you experience the symptoms, and what steps you’re taking to treat it (whether that’s via medications, lifestyle changes, or a combination of the two). It’s okay to be honest and realistic about your PCOS and focus on the actionable steps you’re taking to treat it.

Be specific when asking for help. Oftentimes, friends and family want to help—but they just don’t know how. Let them know specific ways they can support you on your journey. Or, if you just want someone to listen to you vent, that’s okay to ask for too!

Remember that you’re worthy of help. It can be really, really hard to accept help from others, especially if you’re used to being super independent. Remember, everyone gets by with a little help from their friends, and you deserve the help and support you need to take care of your health.

Remember, PCOS is just a part of your life—it doesn’t define who you are. And, we’re here to help with easy access to birth control, if you need it. If you have further questions regarding your symptoms or how medications can help, be sure to consult your doctor.  

Citations:

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html. Published 2020. Accessed September 8, 2021.

Puurunen J, Piltonen T, Morin-Papunen L, et al. Unfavorable hormonal, metabolic, and inflammatory alterations persist after menopause in women with PCOS. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(6):1827-1834. doi:10.1210/jc.2011-0039

Treatments to Relieve Symptoms of PCOS. NIH. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pcos/conditioninfo/treatments/relieve#f1. Published 2017. Accessed September 10, 2021.

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html. Published 2020. Accessed September 8, 2021.

Cutler DA, Pride SM, Cheung AP. Low intakes of dietary fiber and magnesium are associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in polycystic ovary syndrome: A cohort study. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(4):1426-1437. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.1002/fsn3.977

Stepto NK, Patten RK, Tassone EC, et al. Exercise Recommendations for Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Is the Evidence Enough?. Sports Med. 2019;49(8):1143-1157. doi:10.1007/s40279-019-01133-6

Hejnová J, Majercík M, Polák J, et al. Vliv silove-dynamického tréninku na inzulínovou senzitivitu u inzulínorezistentních muzů [Effect of dynamic strength training on insulin sensitivity in men with insulin resistance]. Cas Lek Cesk. 2004;143(11):762-765.

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