Myths about PCOS

September is PCOS Awareness Month. PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a hormonal disorder which causes infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods due to a lack of progesterone or excess androgen levels. The woman’s ovaries may also develop numerous follicles (where the word ‘polycystic’ comes from) and fail to regularly ovulate. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown and signs and symptoms can develop during puberty as well as later in life.

Here are five myths about PCOS that have been debunked:

Myth #1: PCOS is rare.

According to Penn Medicine, it is estimated that between 5-10% of U.S. women of childbearing age have PCOS. That’s about 5 million women—which makes the condition one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders. However, only half of these women are diagnosed correctly.

Myth #2: The woman caused PCOS to develop.

No one knows how or why PCOS develops. It could be genetics, hormone imbalance, environmental factors, or a combination of these. One thing is for certain though: The woman is not to blame.

Myth #3: Women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries.

Even though the word ‘polycystic’ is used to describe the condition, symptoms of PCOS do not include cysts. In reality, tiny immature follicles surround the ovaries and are the result (not the cause) of an imbalance of sex hormones, which inhibit eggs from maturing and ovulation from occurring.

Myth #4: PCOS only effects women who are overweight.

It is true that many women who have PCOS are overweight or obese and that obesity can make PCOS symptoms worse. However, PCOS does not discriminate and can affect women of all shapes and sizes.

Myth #5: You cannot get pregnant if you have PCOS.

The biggest myth of them all! Talking with your doctor about fertility treatment is the first step to achieving pregnancy with PCOS. A number of medications can stimulate ovulation (which is the main issue that women with PCOS face). Some women do need further treatment and pursue IVF to achieve pregnancy.

If you have PCOS, before jumping into the IVF process, you may wish to consider is embryo adoption. Embryo adoption can be a more cost-effective family building option where you can carry and give birth to your adopted child. There are a million embryos in frozen storage in the U.S. right now, just waiting for a loving family to give them a chance at life.

For more information on embryo adoption and donation, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.