Have you ever wondered why you miss your periods sometimes while you know you aren’t pregnant? Have you ever gotten a pregnancy scare, knowing very well you have been in “drought” the whole time? Well, not a lot of people know this, but you might be suffering from a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a problem with hormones that happens during the reproductive years. If you have PCOS, you may find yourself having irregular periods very often, or in most cases, you will have periods that will last longer than they should. In many cases, when this happens, it’s because you may have too much of the androgen hormone in your body. Androgens are defined as a group of sex hormones that are responsible for helping start puberty, and playing a role in reproductive health and body development. All genders make androgens, but males make more of them. So, what exactly happens with PCOS? Through PCOS, many small sacs of fluid called cysts which contain immature eggs develop along the outer edge of the ovary. These eggs are called follicles. With PCOS, mature eggs fail to regularly release. Currently, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown. However, there are symptoms that can help the doctors diagnose you. Symptoms of PCOS often start around the time of the first menstrual period. Sometimes, symptoms develop later after you have had periods for a while. These include having irregular periods as well as having few menstrual periods, or periods that aren’t regular. Some people will also have periods that last for many days. For example, one might have fewer than nine periods a year. And those periods may occur more than 35 days apart. As a result, this might cause serious difficulty in getting pregnant.
Another symptom is having too much androgen. High levels of the hormone androgen may result in excess facial and body hair. This is called hirsutism. Sometimes, severe acne and male-pattern baldness can happen, too. So, if you have been skipping your periods for a while, and you may have severe acne and/or facial hair, it could be a result of the androgen hormone being too much in your body.
Lastly, polycystic ovaries are also a symptom. This means that your ovaries might be bigger. Many follicles containing immature eggs may develop around the edge of the ovary. The ovaries might not work the way they should. As such, in PCOS, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means ovulation does not take place.
In most cases, women who suffer from PCOS have difficulty getting pregnant as a result. And while PCOS still has no cure, the symptoms can be treated through a change of diet, and medication is also available to treat symptoms such as excessive hair growth, irregular periods and fertility problems. Thus, if you have any of these symptoms, please see your doctor.
* Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper. She also specialises in editing research proposals, proofreading as well as content creation.