What do you know about PCOS? And why should we care?
For me, full disclosure – not a lot until 3 days ago when I decided to write a blog post on this menstrual condition for the PCOS Awareness month. All I know is that it is one of the causes of infertility and one of the main symptoms are irregular menses or lack of ovulation.
We should care because knowledge is power. And every women, (even men), should be armed with knowledge of what’s happening in their body, and not made to be ashamed of it.
PCOS is short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a menstrual condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens or male sex hormones ,that are usually present in women in small amounts, thus causes hormonal imbalance which disrupts a women’s menstrual cycle.
Read about PCOS Awareness Month here
When I started my IVF journey, that was the first time I became aware of other menstrual conditions that affect fertility, like endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS, fibroids, menorrhea (absent of period), menorrhagia (heavy bleeeding) etc.
That is my truth. It’s partially my fault. Yes, the adults in my life never talked about menstruation, and so I didn’t bother learning about my menstrual health because it was something we don’t talk about. (And it’s still a taboo and shameful topic in today’s society.)
And then I had a near health scare when I was 21, was diagnosed with CIN, (my first pap smear showed abnormal bleeding), had a cone biopsy of of my cervix , and thankfully it was benign. And then a few years later, I found out that an ex-colleague, one year younger (we were in our 20s) – died from cervical cancer.
And so since then, I made a point to see my gynae whenever I noticed something strange in the neighbourhood down under. But one thing was missing – there was no one I could talk to about this.
So I wished there were more education and awareness around menstrual and fertility health, growing up.
The knowledge would have made me less scared and maybe more empathetic towards my fellow female tribe. It would have made me want to embrace my period as a time of rest, It would made me want to take care parts of myself that cannot be seen, and needs to be taken care of.
In reality, we only start looking and worrying when things go wrong, right? We live life, not knowing, completely checked out, and pretend there’s no suffering in life. You know, like I used to tell myself – if it doesn’t impact my day to day life, it doesn’t cause me to lose money – why worry?
And that’s okay.
That’s why we are here. That’s why I’m writing this post, which is aligned with one of my new missions for my blog – to bring awareness to feminine issues especially menstrual conditions that affect women’s reproductive health.
For research purposes, I started reading real-life stories of women living with PCOS, and I thought why not collate a list – so others can have a chance to learn from other “Cysters” and advocate for themselves if they suspect they have PCOS. I’ll let them tell you what’s it all about.
In today’s blog, you will get to know:
PCOS (what is it, the diagnosis, symptoms)
List of stories (Read a story, Watch A Video, PCOS Pregnancy Success stories)
PCOS Resources in Singapore
Yoga and PCOS
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
What is it Really?
PCOS is a metabolic, endocrine and reproductive disorder that affects a woman’s hormone levels.
1 in 10 women are affected by PCOS during their childbearing years.
Polycystic’ literally translates as ‘many cysts”
The name polycystic ovary syndrome describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries.
These cysts are formed when a woman doesn’t make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate, ie when a mature egg is not released from an ovary ( which usually happens on day 12-14 of a 28 day menstrual cycle. If the egg is not fertilized by a male sperm, it is sent out of the body during your period). These cysts causes the ovary to produce an abnormal amount of androgens, male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. This causes more problems with the menstrual cycle and thus it causes symptoms like anovulation (no menses / no ovulation) and male related.
Note: Some women may have PCOS and have no symptoms and healthy woman may have polycystic ovaries. Lara Briden, author of Period Repair Manual says that “Polycystic ovaries can occur with PCOS but they are not specific to PCOS…one study showed that healthy women have polycystic ovaries 25% of the time.”
To be diagnosed with PCOS a woman has to show two out of three of the main defining features of the condition. These are:
Irregular periods; often meaning you are menstruating fewer than four times a year
Excess androgen; high levels of hormones which can physically manifest as symptoms such as excess facial or body hair (hirsutism)
Polycystic ovaries; enlarged ovaries with multiple follicles making it difficult to release eggs for ovulation
irregular periods (late periods/ too many days of bleeding)
hirsutism (excessive body & facial hair)
blood sugar imbalances (caused by production of excess insulin)
Emotional symptoms — depression, anxiety and poor self- esteem
Increased risk of diabetes and heart-disease
Living with PCOS: Real-Life Stories
Read a Story
Bella (Singapore) https://www.theaffirmativepeople.com/post/journey-with-dean-ng-bella-pcos
Celebrity Stories with PCOS https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/health/a38171906/celebrities-with-pcos/
Collection of Stories https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/getting-diagnosed-with-pcos-personal-experiences-and-advice
Collection of Stories https://weconceive.com/library/fertility-diagnoses/living-with-pcos-real-stories-from-women-finding-hope-in-the-diagnosis
Collection of Stories https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-28/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-women-on-life-with-pcos/9607494
Collection of Stories https://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1122917/living-with-pcos/
Watch a Video
Kate (Video) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EASxlRrbvbM
Anja (Video) – https://www.facebook.com/peppysupport/videos/429542562257352/
Torri (Video) https://www.brut.media/us/health/living-with-pcos-ce1d3624-b58e-4c5b-bc0b-c15a5707b9ef
Preetipls (Singapore) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637867373546360
PCOS Pregnancy Success stories
Velda Tan (Singapore) https://www.smartparents.sg/pregnancy/when-you-are-pregnant/celeb-mum-be-velda-tan-ill-tell-my-daughter-not-quit-school-unlike
Jamie, Kayla, Kendall, Jessica, Krystal, Farnaz, Jaymes https://smartfertilitychoices.com/pcos-pregnancy-success-stories/
PCOS Resources in Singapore
Unfortunately , I didn’t find a lot of resources or support in Singapore context. What I found close to home that is helpful is this group in Malaysia called My PCOS I Love You, and I’ve put the link below.
FB Group – Online Support Group (PCOS SG) (though it doesn’t seem active at the moment.)
A thesis written by Quek Liu Ting in 2018 entitled “Exploring the Experiences of Women Living With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (WLW-PCOS) In Singapore’s Context” by, which is a good read.
Recently in 2022, there was a play about PCOS titled “Lotus Root Support Group” starring local actresses Shannen Tan and Miriam Cheong, both of whom suffer from PCOS. They say they have a video-on-demand recording of the play will also be released in the second half of March. (PS I’ve reached out to see if it’s available to view if anyone’s interested?)
PCOS I Love You
And from the FSS fold, these IVF warriors Velda Tan, Kristen Kiong, and Josephine Foong, who has spoken on occasion, about their PCOS diagnosis. (And our lovely Kristen is doing IG Live Talk on the 28th Sept. I will update with the link once it’s available.)
Can Yoga help with PCOS?
So far conventional medicine can only treat the symptoms not the cause.
Most of thse PCOS warriors or Cysters as they like to call themselves, “live with the diagnosis”, use a multi-prong approach of a healthy lifestyle, weight loss if overweight, and targeted therapy such as hormones and medication.
From a holistic perspective, addressing the stress levels would be a step towards treating emotional symptoms like “negative feelings about being female and feeling subordinate or inferior” and elevated hormone levels nsulin levels which can be exarcebated by stress etc.
So yoga can help – research has shown that yoga can be helpful for PCOS; several studies show that it’s more beneficial than other forms of exercise, in reducing the physical and emotional symptoms.
I will go into more detail of Yoga for PCOS in future posts, but for right now, just to keep this post shorter (it’s already too long :)), if you are interested in using yoga as a tool to treat your PCOS symptoms, just start doing yoga, j start going for classes, attend meditation sessions or youtube has alot of ideas too.
I hope this was helpful for you as it was helpful for me, learning about PCOS from the “Cysters.” I will update this post if I find more stories, and if you have a link to share, please connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How Yoga Can Help With Endometriosis
Your Guide to Common IVF Abbreviations
Moving with The Moon By Ana Davis
John Hopkins Medicine
Rotterdam Criteria For PCOS Diagnosis