Debunking 10 Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Myths
If you're one of the 10% of people with ovaries who may have PCOS, we get it: PCOS is confusing! And commonly spread PCOS myths don't make it any easier.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common yet overwhelmingly under-diagnosed condition. And while many people of reproductive age deal with PCOS, there continue to be several misconceptions about what it is, who gets it, and why.
The good news about PCOS is that there are ways to manage it. But the myths about PCOS can make it even harder to accurately spot symptoms, and you may never get the treatment you deserve. That's why it's so important to arm yourself with the facts to better understand your body and health.
10 Common PCOS Myths
If you have PCOS, or suspect you may have it, you're probably scouring the web and talking to friends, looking for more insights. But sometimes, you might come across some hearsay that's more confusing than enlightening.
To help you comb through the information, here are 10 common myths about PCOS, debunked.
1. Birth Control Is the Best Treatment for PCOS
Birth control pills are a common treatment prescribed by doctors for PCOS. But this isn't always the best treatment route.
PCOS is a hormonal condition where the ovaries produce abnormally high amounts of androgens. Birth control contains estrogen and progestin that can, temporarily, counteract the effects of the androgens in the body.
But birth control isn't an option if you're planning to get pregnant soon. And even if you're not, birth control's benefits are still limited.
Hormonal contraceptives only mask the symptoms of PCOS, without directly treating them. Once you stop taking birth control, you return right back to where you started.
That's why it's worthwhile to research and discuss other treatment options instead. Birth control may improve your menstrual cycle and other PCOS symptoms, but so can lifestyle and diet changes. Plus, lifestyle changes typically don't require getting a prescription—a healthy diet and activity are accessible to nearly everyone.
One way to treat PCOS naturally is by consuming vitamins, minerals, and foods known to help stabilize and balance hormones. The 28 ingredients packed in our Knowell capsules were chosen with your reproductive and hormonal health in mind.
2. Every Person With an Irregular Menstrual Cycle Has PCOS
An irregular menstrual cycle is a symptom of PCOS, but it's also a symptom of many other conditions, too.
Just because your periods aren't consistent doesn't mean you have PCOS. You could be dealing with another health issue, like a thyroid disorder, pelvic inflammatory disease, or uterine fibroids. Or maybe your diet or stress levels are messing with your cycle.
It's not unusual to, occasionally, have irregular menstruation. But to get the most clarity, it's best to discuss your menstrual cycle and other symptoms with a doctor.
3. Ultrasounds Are the Only Way to Diagnose PCOS
Doctors may use an ultrasound scan to check for cystic follicles on the ovaries. Just like the name "polycystic ovary syndrome" suggests, this is one sign of PCOS.
But to make matters complicated, not all ovarian cysts are associated with PCOS. Ovarian cysts can form for several other reasons that have nothing to do with PCOS.
So while an ultrasound can give some information on the health of your ovaries, it's not the only way to diagnose PCOS. Doctors may also do a blood test and check for other physical signs of PCOS to make a diagnosis.
4. PCOS Makes You Gain Weight
According to The Cleveland Clinic, it's not clear if PCOS directly causes weight gain, but it can make it a little extra challenging for some to lose weight. So if you're struggling with PCOS and you've put on a few more pounds than usual, remember to be gentle with yourself.
But the idea that PCOS affects weight can still lead to some dangerous myths. One problem is that many people assume everyone with PCOS is overweight. Then, some people who are overweight may be misdiagnosed with PCOS, while those who weigh less may have PCOS yet are never properly diagnosed.
It's important to remember that PCOS and weight gain don't always go hand-in-hand. Each person's body, symptoms, and reaction to hormone levels are unique and variable.
5. People With PCOS Can't Get Pregnant
One of the scariest parts of learning that you might have PCOS is believing that you'll never be able to get pregnant. But many people with PCOS still go on to have children, despite this common myth.
Some can get pregnant naturally without any hurdles, while others get support from fertility treatments. Either way, PCOS clearly isn't a guarantee that you'll never get pregnant. If you dream of expanding your family in the future, the effects PCOS has on fertility and ovulation are often treatable and can be overcome.
6. Every Person With PCOS Has Unwanted Hair Growth
Just like many falsely believe that you must be overweight to have PCOS, there's also a myth that it always leads to hair growth. But it's possible to have PCOS but not be overweight or hairy. The high levels of androgen that come with PCOS can trigger hair growth in areas such as the face and chest.
But many won't struggle with unwanted hair growth. And for those who do, there may be certain factors that make hormonal hair growth more likely in some women over others. For example, ethnicity could play a role in whether or not you have hair growing in new places.
7. You Have to Have Ovarian Cysts to Have PCOS
Remember how we said that ultrasounds aren't the only way to diagnose PCOS? This is true partially because ovarian cysts and follicles found on an ultrasound aren't always related to PCOS. But on top of that, cysts aren't actually required to receive a PCOS diagnosis.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is less about cysts (despite its name) and more about an overproduction of androgens. So while ovarian cysts may be one effect of having higher levels of androgens, they aren't necessary to have PCOS.
8. People With PCOS Have the Same Symptoms
PCOS can be a very different experience based on the person. Some common symptoms that may signal PCOS include:
- irregular periods
- cysts on the ovaries
- abnormal hair growth, such as on the face, neck, stomach, and chest
- hair loss or thinning
- the formation of dark patches on skin
These symptoms are linked to PCOS, but they're not a guarantee for everyone. If you have PCOS, you may only experience some of these symptoms. And even the symptoms you do have may not be so obvious. How PCOS affects you and your life will be unique compared to others' stories.
9. PCOS Is Easy to Diagnose
Because PCOS is still misunderstood and often overlooked (even by medical professionals), it's not so easy to diagnose.
For years, doctors have proposed different ways of diagnosing PCOS. They used to look for superficial signs like excess hair, acne, and weight gain. Now, doctors typically look for patients who have irregular menstrual cycles, cysts on their ovaries, or high levels of androgens on blood tests.
But many symptoms of PCOS may be chalked up to another problem or condition. That's why it can be so hard to get diagnosed with PCOS, leaving many cases undetected.
10. Only Women Can Get Diagnosed With PCOS
PCOS is often considered a women's syndrome, but that isn't entirely true.
While ovaries are involved in PCOS, the condition doesn't discriminate based on gender. In fact, rates of PCOS are higher among trans men than the general population, according to this NCBI study.
You don't have to be a woman, then, to struggle with PCOS. It affects a variety of people, including women, trans people, and gender non-binary or non-conforming folks.
Unlearning Common Misconceptions About PCOS
Even though PCOS is so common among people with ovaries, it continues to be under-diagnosed and misunderstood. It can be hard to sift through PCOS myths and facts to truly understand what PCOS is really like.
But by asking questions, learning the truth, and unlearning PCOS myths and misconceptions, we can start to uncover more about this condition and how it affects our bodies and lives. And with that knowledge, we can become more empowered to make smarter choices for our reproductive and hormonal health.
One of those smart choices is nourishing your body with foods and ingredients that can support fertility and hormonal balance, like those found in Knowell. Learn more about our Knowell capsules and how the ingredients inside can boost your health and help regulate PCOS symptoms!