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5 Surprising Facts I Learned About PCOS

Did you know 5 to 10 percent of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)? According to the PCOS Foundation, less than 50 percent of women are diagnosed, leaving millions of women undiagnosed.

Recently several people asked if my issues with getting pregnant and my wonky cycles were due to PCOS. Initially I shrugged it off because, several years ago (before trying to conceive our first baby), I went through various tests when a doctor at that time suspected PCOS was causing my irregular periods. However, testing was inconclusive and I was never diagnosed with anything.

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While I was aware of PCOS, my knowledge of it was limited. I knew it affected fertility with cysts on the ovaries. I knew it affected weight gain and the ability to lose weight. I assumed if I wasn't diagnosed back then that it was unlikely I had it now.

However, there were several things I was surprised to learn when I began asking a question my current doctor isn't asking: "Do I have PCOS?"

Here are five surprising things I learned while doing research:

The process of diagnosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, "There's no specific test to definitively diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome. The diagnosis is one of exclusion, which means your doctor considers all of your signs and symptoms and then rules out other possible disorders."

Possible genetic link. There is a lot about PCOS that is still not understood; however, genetics may be part of what causes it. PCOS seems to run in families.

Symptoms can fluctuate. They can increase over time, leading to more serious health complications. One suggested way to manage PCOS is by losing weight, which can help improve hormonal imbalances, such as insulin resistance.

Hair loss and excess hair growth. Due to an increase in male hormones, PCOS can cause extra hair to grow on different parts of your body. Another symptom is thinning hair on the scalp.

It can cause complications such as diabetes and gestational diabetes. PCOS can cause infertility as well as other issues such as repeat miscarriages, high blood pressure, diabetes and gestational diabetes.

One of the main symptoms is the absence of periods. PCOS disrupts ovulation, which disrupts the menstrual cycle. I have certainly experienced unusually long cycles. I've gone as long as four months without a period prior to getting pregnant with my first child.

The other signs and symptoms resonate with me as well. I've always struggled with losing weight. My chin is sprouting more hairs than I want to spend time plucking and my thick hair seems to be a thing of the past.

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What really grabbed my attention was the increased risk of gestational diabetes. I had this with both of my pregnancies and it was diagnosed early both times. With my first, the ob-gyn seemed convinced I was an undiagnosed type-2 diabetic because of how early I developed gestational diabetes. However, my blood sugar levels always returned to normal shortly after giving birth.

Perhaps there weren't enough symptoms years ago for my previous doctor to diagnose me with PCOS. I can't help but consider the possibility today. My next step is to make an appointment with my doctor to discuss it.

Stay tuned.

Image via Twenty20/brandonann

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