Understanding PCOS and Its Impact on Menstruators

PCOS affects 1.4M menstruators in Canada, causing irregular periods, weight gain, excess hair, and other symptoms.

April 5, 2023
Understanding PCOS and Its Impact on Menstruators

Oh, the many joys of menstruating…

As if cramps, heavy bleeding, migraines, bloating, nausea, and many other symptoms aren't bad enough. A gynaecological disorder known as PCOS can cause even worse symptoms during your cycle. And, it affects around 1.4 million menstruators in Canada.

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough hormones to ovulate. This results in the ovaries growing small fluid-filled sacs called cysts, which are more often than not, not harmful (benign). However, these cysts tend to produce large amounts of hormones called androgens, which cause PCOS symptoms.

Graphic of PCOS symptoms by Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists

The symptoms of PCOS can be:

● Missed, or irregular periods

● Weight gain

● Excess body hair on the chin, chest, back, or stomach

● Thinning hair or balding

● Dark patches of skin in the armpits, back of the neck, and under the breasts

● Acne or oily skin

● Skin tags

● Infertility

Untreated, PCOS can develop into more complex health problems such as endometrial cancer, high blood pressure, heart problems, or type 2 diabetes. The reason for this being, people withPCOS tend to have higher insulin levels. These conditions can be prevented through several forms of treatment, recommended by a health professional

Graphic of how to improve health symptoms caused by PCOS by Maple Leaf Medical Centre

A change in diet is usually the first solution offered to someone suffering from PCOS, consisting of a switch to a high fiber, plant-based diet to lower insulin levels. The keto diet is popular amongst those with PCOS. On top of a diet change, medication such as hormonal birth control can be administered to treat hormone levels in the body. However, this is not always effective.

There are also natural supplement options for those who prefer to stay off of hormonal medications. Chaste berry supplements, also known as Vitex Agnus-Castus, have been used to treat hormonal levels and irregular periods within the naturopathic medical community. These natural supplements are derived from the chaste berry plant, which has been used for all types of gynaecological disorders, including PMS, breast pain, and infertility. The supplements help to decrease levels of prolactin, which can rebalance estrogen and progesterone levels.

While the exact causes of PCOS is unclear, and there remains to be no real cure, there are a variety of treatments that can help, as long as they are implemented by a healthcare professional. If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms of PCOS, seek professional help from a licensed healthcare provider.

Be sure to write down all of your symptoms and any concerns you have about your body before your appointment, and don’t be afraid to do research beforehand and ask questions. At the endof the day, your body’s health and happiness is the most important thing.

Original article written by: Mary Bourke on Jul 13, 2021 

Revised and updated by: Rebecca Gouthro on Jul 15, 2022

Hayley Newman-Petryshen

Intersectional community builder, menstrual equity activist in Canada for 5+ years

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