Saturday, August 1, 2009

PCO: What are polycystic ovaries?

Having very recently been diagnosed with PCO, and having had to tolerate the entire lack of information available online regarding the condition (it's all about PCOS instead), I've decided to dedicate a post to its discussion. It is very relevant to the Primal lifestyle, particularly the lower-carb versions of it, as practiced by myself and countless others.

For this post, I will be drawing on the published pieces of information regarding PCO as written by my doctor (Dr. Graeme Edwards, Collins Place Medical Clinic), as well as one by the ultrasound specialist I consulted (at Monash Ultrasound for Women).

What are polycystic ovaries (PCO)?

PCO are ovaries which contain an excessive number of primordial follicles. (Despite the name, there are no cysts, so the condition should really be called polyfollicular ovaries). These follicles are tiny fluid-filled sacs which contain the eggs. An ultrasounds of the ovaries during the reproductive years usually shows, on average, 5-12 follicles in each ovary. When more than 12-15 follicles are present, the ovary is called 'polycystic'. This itself does not cause adverse symptoms and should not be confused with PCOS.

Normal: less than or equal to 12 follicles
Borderline: 13-15 follicles
Mild: 16-30 follicles
Moderate: 30-50 follicles
Severe: more than 50 follicles, as a general guide - these women usually have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), associated with infertility, increased facial hair, and a disturbance of hormone levels.

What is the cause of polycystic ovaries?

In a normal menstrual cycle there are usually 5-10 follicles at the beginning of the cycle. Later in the cycle usually around day 14, one follicle gets bigger (leading follicle) and shortly thereafter ovulation takes place with release of the egg. The remaining eggs regress and disappear before the next cycle. These events typically occur every 4 weeks and result in the monthly menstrual bleed. With polycystic ovaries, this cyclical sequence of events does not take place. Instead, no leading egg develops and there is a build up of small immature follicles with successive cycles. Despite extensive research no single cause explains this variation from normal.

PCO is very common - it is estimated that 1 in 3 women have them. For most, this does not cause a problem and is often left undiagnosed unless they have difficulties becoming pregnant. Even in this case, many women achieve ovulation and therefore pregnancy with minimal drug involvement.

PCO is a genetic condition, and tends to develop during your 20's. PCOS usually develops much sooner, with symptoms appearing when a girl is around 16.

PCO causes a mild hormone imbalance which may cause one or more of the following:

1. Acne
2. Irregular, infrequent periods
3. Slightly reduced fertility
4. Oily skin
5. Mild hair excess on face, nipples or pubic area
6. Some degree of resistance to your body's natural insulin

Treatment:

Exercise - this burns up sugar and helps lower the strain on insulin which helps your ovaries.

Keep weight low - increased weight increases resistance to insulin in everyone.

Low carbohydrate, low GI diet - all carbs except fibre and metabolised to sugar, so low carbs lowers the strain on insulin which helps your ovaries.

Oral contraceptive pill - this treats the hormone disturbance and stops the ovaries trying to make more follicles.

If trying to become pregnant, simple agents like Metformin (which decreases your resistance to insulin) or the fertility drug Clomephene may be needed.

This image is a mock-up of what severe polycystic ovaries look like, as well as an ultrasound - much worse than mine!

But what does this mean for our beloved blogger?
Aw, you guys, I'm touched by your compassion. :)

Well, I only discovered that something was not quite right when, thanks to my rapid weight loss in January, my cycle was thrown out, resulting in multiple periods, and I stopped taking Yasmin (my BCP) to allow my system to sort itself out again. However, after five months without a period, I consulted my awesome doctor and he sent me for an ultrasound and a blood test (for my hormone levels). My blood work returns showing perfectly normal hormone levels, but the ultrasound showed 12 follicles on one ovary, and 16 on the other (borderline-mild PCO). No hairy nipples, just in case you were wondering. (See "Edit:" section below for more thoughts on this.)

I would love to know whether or not I do have a resistance to my body's natural insulin. My weight issues could easily be chalked up to this, but I am more than aware that the sheer amount of garbage I used to shove into my cake-hole (including cake) without putting on weight suggests otherwise. It took a lot of work to put on that weight, and I didn't have much trouble getting rid of it the few times I actively watched what I ate or exercised. I just never stuck with either program long term. Even eating 'healthfully', I was watching the fat intake rather than the calories/carbs, and we all know where that ends up... However, if I do in fact have mild insulin resistance, my doctor claims that I will never achieve any real sensitivity to insulin thanks to PCO (without using Metformin, but I don't believe in taking drugs unless absolutely necessary), so I'm grateful that I thoroughly enjoy living the Primal lifestyle, and that I'm not in the trap of using low-carb as a temporary fix-it bant. At the same time, I would hate for my nipples to suddenly sprout shrubbery, so I'm even less tempted to every cheat and/or return to my old eating habits. However, from talking to people who have overcome the symptoms of PCOS (one of which is PCO) through treating the hormone issue, I kind of wish my condition was that easily remedied.

As happy as I am sans period (such a relief; there's a reason it's called AMENorrhea!), I've been instructed to resume taking my BCP to control the amount of follicles I produce (i.e. none now). I was intending to do so anyway, just waiting for a period so I could just back on. Now that I know that I rarely ovulate, if ever, it's a bit of an annoyance to have to go through menstruation unnecessarily!

I hope this post helps others out there who have PCO or recognise the symptoms even if undiagnosed, and I'm glad that this condition is being thoroughly researched all over the world, including studies here in Melbourne. It seems bizarre to me that a condition which so obviously can affect fertility can be present in 1/3 of the female population. It's impossible for us to know whether this is a result of diet or lifestyle, since it has been impossible to diagnose until recently, but logic tells me it can't simply be a flaw in the human design... The claim about PCO being inherited through genetics also raises my eyebrow, since its commonness and its symptoms tend to clash with that concept. Here's hoping that the mystery is solved soon - more for those with PCOS than for folks like me who miss a few periods.

Edit: I wanted to add a current theory I have developed based on my own experiences, in case others have had a similar experience, or can disprove my theory.

I began eliminating sugars, grains and starches on the 1st of January this year, and lost weight rapidly, from Day 1. I had just finished my period, and was therefore taking my pill as usual. However, seven days into my diet (3kg down, mostly water weight) I began to menstruate, and it continued for 14 straight days. (In the meantime I lost another 2kg.) I continued to take my pill, and after a week without my period, my pill cycle was up, and another period was triggered. It was at this point that I decided to take a break from the pill to allow my hormones to sort themselves out.

So here's my theory: let's say than the hormones (estrogen & progesterone, etc) produced by my body is hX and the hormones supplied by my pill is hY. In the first week of January, I began losing weight, and as a result my hX levels were disrupted/lowered. As a result, my body thought I was no longer pregnant (as Yasmin told it I was) and shed the uterine lining. Meanwhile, hY was still doing its job, so the lining was replaced, but then shed again once hY was no longer being supplied (sugar pill week). I stopped taking hY, but hX has not 'normalised' in order to trigger a normal cycle. This may sort itself out in time, with or without the reintroduction of hY.

Here's the other theory: at some point during the last three years (taking hY), my natural levels of hX screwed up (possibly due to my diet and the eventual development of insulin resistance - though actually my diet in the past five years has been much lower in carbs and GI than it was in prior years) and my cycle was only functioning correctly thanks to hY.

My situation could well be drawing on both theories, but I'd love to hear from anyone who had strange menstrual irregularity when initially losing weight, whilst also taking a BCP. A long shot, but hey :)

25 comments:

Gwen said...

hi -
thanks for that entry. i was diagnosed PCO 2 years ago by a british GP who couldn't care/know less; went to a specialist who knew more but still couldn't really care less, and gave me a script to Provera to take for when I didnt have a period for over 3 months (at that point I was having them every 2-3 months, no other symptoms really). Periods got back to normal last year, then I started dropping weight and they stopped; now its been 6 months without one and I recently started going primal with great results; provera hasn't induced anything, though.
Anyway, since you seem to have a doctor who cares/knows, and I don't, I'm wondering if you are aware of PCO affecting cholesterol. I recently got results that put my LDL at 200 and my HDL at 120 - which makes very little sense based on what I eat, my age, and my high-activity level. Thanks in advance if you know anything!

Jezwyn said...

Thanks for the comment, Gwen. Your experience has given me lots to think about - part of me still reckons a lot of my amenorrhea is related to the drop in weight rather than PCO, which I may have been predisposed to before this year, but only had a chance to develop after cutting off my BCP. At this point there is no reason for me to force myself to have a period - there's no build-up of lining - so I'm rather tempted to keep going to see whether my periods and cycles would resume by themselves... Given that your drug isn't helping you, I'd say your uterine lining hasn't built up either, the same situation as I am in, and I wonder if this is due to the weight loss in both of our cases...

Meanwhile, I've done a lot of research into heart health as part of my learning over the past year, and I haven't seen any links between that and PCO directly. However, there is a link between sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol, of course, and you could suppose that insulin resistance, fuelling higher sugar intake and perpetually high blood glucose levels, would be linked to heart and blood issues, even if not directly.

Meanwhile, your figures don't seem all that bad anyway - your high HDL is excellent. How was the LDL ascertained - measured directly, or calculated? What about Trig and total cholesterol? Do you take fish oil? Taking fish oil can improve all your numbers.

Don't forget that high cholesterol isn't necessarily a causative factor in heart problems. I can point you to some references if that's news to you! :)

Shelley said...

Great post and fascinating topic.. I had never heard of PCO but am definitely going to ask my doctor about it the next time I go in. It has been over 15 years since my first period and I have NEVER had regular periods unless I was on birth control. It isn't even unusual for me to go 6 months without a period, though 3 months would be more the norm. Oddly enough, I conceived very easily with twins. Now for the weird part... since starting to eat primal at the beginning of this year I have had my period every single month (no bc pills or meds of any kind). I can't even begin to tell you how unusual this is for me. Actually, unprecedented. I've lost weight, too. I'm been tempted to chalk up the normal periods to the elimination of grains, reduction in sugar and refined carbs but it could also be increase in exercise or just aging... who knows. Anyway, this is a topic that needs to be addressed more - thanks for the post.

Jezwyn said...

Thanks for the comment Shelley - your experience seems to add more weight to the connectedness of insulin resistance and ovarian/menstrual function, as well as the impact of weight loss on estrogen production.

I'm going to edit my post to add a bit of a revelation I had this morning, in case anyone has had the same experience when switching to low-carb eating... It's so helpful to hear other people's experiences, whether diagnosed with PCO or not. Cheers!

lunac said...

Wonderful post! Just thought I'd add some comments about what I've learned on the topic. Yes, there is very very little information on PCO. Most doctors who have even heard of it confuse it with PCOS. I've gone to medical conferences, specialist and many many hours trolling libraries and here's what I've learned.

There are actually two conditions...

PCOS is and pre-diabetic condition. In order to have PCOS you must have an imbalance with insulin. All other systems are just that, systems. Many women with PCOS don't even have cystic ovaries.

PCO however is can be caused by any hormonal imbalance (one of which can be insulin). If you have PCO that is not caused by insulin -- weight gain may not be one of your systems -- and therefore a low-carb diet may no even work for you.

I was diagnosed with PCO in my early 20s. I was diagnosed by having a laparoscopy. And my doctor took the opportunity to remove all the cysts I had. At the time I weight 125 pounds ant 5'6". In fact, I didn't gain anyway weight at all, until they decided to treat me with the pill. I had to try several different ones because my body is very sensitive to added hormones. After 5 years on the pill I had gained more than 100 pounds and my ultrasounds looked (again) like swiss cheese.

I stopped taking the pill and lost 20 pounds in the first month off of it, with out diet or exercise. WHY?! Because I do not have an insulin condition, I have some other hormone that is off.

My biggest issue with having PCO is that it's often painful for me, when I have cyst that rupture they hurt -- and my ovaries are heavy from the amount of cysts I have which is also painful.

My best time in my adult life was when I was pregnant with my children. My body loved that level of hormone (If only I could get that with out actually being pregnant).

Anyway, here's another thought to ponder -- there is also an association with PCO and asthma (which I also have).

Jezwyn said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, lunac!

I've known a few people who gain weight when taking a BCP - I haven't suffered from this before, although when I was originally taking Levlin (the government-subsidised pill), I had some pretty scary mood issues. So I swapped to Yasmin, and have had no issues whatsoever. I occasionally woner whether my weight loss was due to stopping the pill, but then I remind myself that I lost 7kg whilst still taking it, and only 4kg since then (whittling away at the last few kg.)

Sounds like you have many many follicles on each ovary :( I hadn't read that it could be painful, nor that they could rupture, so that's good to know! So that's more reinforcement for me to take Yasmin to prevent more follicles forming - assuming that's how it works for me, given that didn't happen for you.

One point about insulin issues (in this case, insulin resistance) - your pancreas could be in overdrive producing insulin, etc, without you necessarily gaining weight because of it. The danger of PCO and its link to insulin production is that you can permanently ruin your pancreas, leading to diabetes.

Also, PCO can exist without any hormonal imbalance, per se. PCO is the condition of having too many follicles in your ovaries. The cause is not completely known. For me, it certainly seems like my hormones are all in check.

"Low-carb diets may not even work for you" - low-carb diets are very effective for weight-loss and even more effective for maintenance of health and well-being. It may not "work" to cure PCO or PCOS, but they're certainly worth doing. I'm very excited to see that LC cookbooks are starting to dominate our work's 'book club' selection each month. Of couse, there are always the obligatory "105 ways with pasta" and "Noodles!" books to divert unknowing perusers :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jezwyn,

Regarding your comment about estimates that 1/3 of women have this. You might want to read "Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things" by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie which talks a lot about the many hormone (especially estrogens) mimics that are being put into our environment by ubiquitous things such as platics (Such as BP(A). These pollutants have been having serious effects on animal fertility (and we are animals).

I really enjoy your blog.

bob

Anonymous said...

Jezwyn, I read your blog and I am very interested in trying to cut down on my carbs even more. I eat very carb conscious but it seems it is not enough. I have PCOS and I am always trying to figure out what to do. It doesn't matter how much weight I lose. I still have hair sprouting from my face, feel awful, and now my hair is falling out from the root. I discovered a supplement that claims it deals with the root cause of PCOS. I am willing to believe them because only two companies I have found even make the supplement. (It seems the medical community is just uninterested in PCOS and other metabolic syndrome problems. But, I guess what are doctors suppose to do - tell everyone they have to exercise everyday and abstain from sugar, flour, corn, soy, and potatoes. The farmers and food producers would go right out of business if everyone knew that what they were eating was basically killing them slow for some and fast for others.) I am trying the supplement out right now. But, I thought I would tell you because I feel very hopeful about it. The supplement is called d-chiro inositol. http://www.chiralbalance.com/knowledge-base/facts-chiral-balance-dci/ Here is the website. I will let you know how it goes. I am on my first month. - RAS

K-Boo said...

I stumbled across your blog fairly recently after searching for primal recipes (I think). I have PCOS and I've experienced the same thing as you, BCP induced period and then unexplained longer period shortly there after.

I went to a hormone specialist about 18 months ago, she put me on Metformin (which I didn't take), a compounded progesterone prescription and eventually I requested to go on BCP. She put me on a progesterone only pill on which I had a period for 3/4 weeks ... which SUCKED! She also put me on a blood type diet which worked quite well, it cut out most grains, but also a whole bunch of other food I enjoyed like bacon and chicken. My blood sugar level was at 39 when I started which is CRAZY HIGH and a few short months later was down at 11.

I lost about 14 kilos, then fell off the wagon because my boyfriend moved in with me and I gained it all back. He left about 6 months ago and I'm now back to my lowest weight and I've been relatively primal for about 3 weeks and it's FANTASTIC.

Your blog will be a regular read for me now. :)

Jezwyn said...

Hi Bob! I'm very interested in the facts regarding pollutants, although I'm wary that many studies use doses of toxins which are significantly out of the current likely exposure range for humans. I grew up in a very non-toxic environment, so I don't consider toxins as one of the causes for me, but I don't doubt that they may be a factor for others. I tend to think that industrial food processing itself is a more significant health detraction than objects such as plastics. The removal of hydrolised vegetable oils would be an interesting population experiment, but I doubt we'll live to see the day. Instead, we get to be the guinea pigs of the HVO introduction experiment...

Hi Anon,

My perspective regarding the role of carbs in PCO & PCOS is swaying considerably. The general science shows that there is indeed an association between insulin resistance and PCO, but there isn't much evidence to suggest that improved insulin sensitivity cures PCO in itself. It's more likely that PCO and insulin resistance are both symptoms of a common cause - industrial carbs and oils. Going low-carb usually limits or removes refined sugars and grains from the diet, and products with either of those two tend to also include veg oils. Ergo, going low-carb removes the foods that damage health, with the result of health improvements appearing as improved insulin sensitivity and cured PCO. These same improvements can be experienced without actually going 'low-carb' - you could still eat whole carbs like fruit, sweet potato, and perhaps even wild rice and other safe starches. This experience demonstrates that the health issues stem from the industrial foods, not the high intake of whole carbs.

So, your supplement: the website is full of pseudo-science and it looks like the company is trying to cash in on the fact that science has NOT discovered the cause of PCO(S) yet. It claims to treat the cause - if science actually knew the cause, it would be rapidly spread among the health and medicine community. That said, there doesn't seem to be any risk in taking the supplement, and believing in its potential could reap you some placebo benefits, but I'd recommend you save your money. I would be more likely to put my faith in a 'superfood' like acai berry since at least there's a bit of science behind that, if you don't pay attention to the necessary dose needed to show antioxidant effect ;)

K-Boo - hi and welcome! Great to hear you're seeing great health results from going grain-free. Your experience might support my hypothesis above. I have recently experienced a return of my natural (non-BCP) period, which is very exciting! However, it comes with a return of all my weight (plus a few extra kgs), and a higher carb intake than what I used to lose the weight at first. I will be seeking fat loss again in the coming months, so it will be interesting to see whether my period has returned for good, or whether I'll need to keep my carbs or fat level up in order to keep my hormones running effectively. Now that my experience has shown that PCO isn't necessarily permanent, I'll use myself as a test subject to see whether my hypothesis is disproved by low-carbing, etc. I take it you are still suffering amenorrhoea?

Stay in touch, you guys! This page is one of the most visited on my blog, so the more we can help other sufferers, the better!

Stefani said...

Hi GGP. My name is Pepper, and I ran into you on a thread I started on paleohacks about Amenorrhea and PCOS. I had been diagnosed, too, but also like you, had no idea why. My insulin sensitivity is okay, my weight is fine, I exercise plenty, and I eat very low carb. Perplexing. But again, so much of PCOS and women's hormones in general is.

In any case, I developed a working theory of my own. It's based off of a chapter I read in the text: Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives, which I'm sure you've heard of. And I ran the idea by my OBGYN and he thought it was decent. Basically, the thought is that my body uses estrogen from my fat cells instead of estrogen from my ovaries. As a result, I menstruate whenever my BMI inches up towards overweight. And when I lose weight my menstruation disappears. I know that lots of other things could be going on, but this is the best I could come up with.

What do you think?

I have one other concern that I wanted to talk to you about. I actually stumbled upon this post because I had been a long time reader of yours and many other blogs, and I was returning to your blog to look for your email address. I admire, enormously, the efforts, achievements, and spirit of your blog, perhaps especially because you're a female voice in a pretty masculine sphere. I aspire to do the same.

That said, I've recently started a blog. Its in its infancy but I really enjoy it, and I want to emphasize women's issues with food and society, and how that all works with a paleo diet. If you want to maybe pop over or shoot me an email about it, I'd be way honored. You can get me at stefanielizabeth@gmail.com, and you can get there at paleopepper.com. You can also read my brief (and woefully inadeqaute!) post on PCOS there (easy to find, since there are five posts). AND, of course, if you can't/don't want to/etc, do NOT sweat it. I'm not sure how to get my beginner's footing, but I'm sure it'll all work out in time.

Big time thanks, and big time good luck with your ovaries,
Pepper

Rae said...

Thanks for the great post!

It is in fact, PCOS that has sent me into primal eating.

After reading this I wonder about the differences between the two, and if I really have PCO, as I do not exhibit most of the secondary symtoms..

Hmmm...either way, eating right will help!

Jezwyn said...

"Hmmm...either way, eating right will help!"

Maybe, but given the return of my cycle whilst eating junk and having regained all my weight, I'm floundering a bit when trying to define what "eating RIGHT" is in this context!

Hannah said...

Hey

I'm a teenage girl and it was recently suggested I may well have PCO, I don't really know that much about it and this post has helped a lot, although I was wondering if You could give me any more information? I'm a little scared and going for an ultra-sound soon to confirm/deny it. If I do have it what is it going to mean?

Thanks

Hann.xx

Hannah said...

Hi-
I'm only fourteen, but it has recently been suggestesd that I have PCO, in fact i'm going for an ultra-sound scan soon. No one's really told me anything, and this blog has helped immensely, however, i'm still kinda scared and I was wondering how much you could tell me? About the diagnostic proses as well? Will I need to have bloods?
Thank you.xx

Jezwyn said...

Hi Hannah,

Sorry for the delay - your comment was sitting in the moderation list, and I don't log in very often these days; I just follow the approved comments via my RSS reader.

When my GP suspected the PCO was at the root of my lack of periods (which have come back now), he sent me to get a blood test to rule out full-blown PCOS which is when you have too many androgens (the hormones guys have more of than girls). Then I went for the ultrasound, which involved a rod that's pretty much a dildo being inserted and bent a little to press against the ovaries. The specialist takes still images once the ultrasound is showing the presence of extra ovarian follicles. If there are no extra follicles (I only had a few extra ones, but sometimes there are heaps!) then no PCO. If you do have PCO, you can try what the GP tells you to (low-carb, lots of exercise, try to avoid stress) but for me it seems like the root of the problem was cutting back on calories or perhaps just losing weight (too fast, maybe).

I'm more than happy to keep chatting to you about it all if you want to reply or email me at girlgoneprimal@gmail.com

All the best with the ultrasound, and either way, as long as your hormone levels are fine, PCO doesn't seem like it's worth worrying about. If you've had a period before and now you've missed some, think about any changes that you've made to your life recently. If the suggestion has come because you haven't had a period yet, know that I didn't have my first period til I was 14!

Stay in touch,

GGP

Closer every day said...

Hi there
This is a really interesting topic and one close to my heart! I have PCO and like many people I suspected it but was brushed off by doctors who didnt know/care less about it. However once I started trying to get pregnant, and it wasnt happening, I found a doctor who took a closer look. I had an ultra sound and saw the follicles etc and also had a blood test which showed that my LH levels were slightly high. But the doctor told me that PCO is a spectrum and I was on the lower end. It seems I am ovulating monthly. THats the thing with PCO you just never know. Even in your case where it seems you never ovulate, one month might come and you just might ovulate that month...

Anyway this doctor told me that for years PCO was ignored because all the symptoms were being treated as separate problems. So a girl might go in and be treated for excess facial hair, another might be treated for obesity, another for absent periods , when in actual fact they all had PCO and PCOS and the doctors just werent looking at the whole picture

My doctor told me that in recent years they have started to really look into it because as you said, with so many women suffering from it , it cant just be ignored. and the 'old solution' to just take the pill isnt very helpful if one wants to get pregnant. It's just hiding your head in the sand. It doesnt cure it or help it, it just masks it. So my doctor said that many of the recent studies into it show that it seems to be all stemming from Insulin Resistance. That its the insulin resistance that starts off a chain of events that effect each woman slightly differently (which symptoms she gets, if any etc) ....

And what you said in your post about how it cant be just an error in humans if so many of us have it, made me think is it perhaps more prevalent now a days because of the sheer quantity of insulin spiking food available on the market? Even 30 years ago ...even 20 years ago! ...there wasnt nearly the selection of man-made rubbish to eat ...

anyway you have inspired me to clean up my diet for good and glory ! :-) no more cheats!!!

Jezwyn said...

Good luck Closer! My PCO is totally gone now, no extra follicles, regular periods, etc. What did I change? I stopped restricting my food intake. I've been eating junk if and when I want. I stopped taking the pill soon after releasing myself from 100% clean eating, to see the result, and my cycle kept on cycling. It sure looks like, for me at least, insulin resistance is not linked to PCO, but that PCO was my body's reaction to the big changes in my diet or - most likely - my body fat percentage. I'm back to the size, shape and diet of most of my adult life, and by system is back to 'normal'. I don't think my experience reflects that of the majority of PCO sufferers, but I'm happy to have my story out there and have the information I accumulated available given the lack of other material online. All the best, but don't expect miracles from clean eating - though I truly do hope it works for you!

Liz said...

I have PCOS and have never had regular cycles. I came across info on the vitamin supplement d-chiro inositol, but it was very expensive. I instead went to my natural food shop and got the less refined "inositol" for $10.Inositol is in the B vitamin family. I was told that I would not be able to conceive without fertility treatments; it was not a road I wanted to take. I had blood work done and found that my hormone levels were not right and my insulin levels were almost to the cut off of being considered diabetic. I imeadeatly began mensturating regulary and after 3 months if taking inositol daily, my blood work came back "normal". The next month I was pregnant. I had tried for 4 years. Last year a friend of mine confided in me that she too had PCOS and that she had been trying to conceive for years. Unsuccessful fertility treatments left her with little hope of having a child. She began taking inositol and is now expecting a baby this spring. There are studies that have been done on inositol, for sucess in treating diabetes, PCOS and bipolar disorder as well. There is little publicity about it though, because it can not be patented and there is a whole lot of money to be made from those other "treatments". Please, if you have PCOS,PCO, diabetes, or bipolar disorder, check Inositol out.

Sneha's Food Blog said...

Hi there!

What a small world- I too have received the same diagnosis by the same doctor. Also, I can see that you and I received the same piece of paper from Dr. Edwards based on the information you've put up. I was actually trying to find out a little more about PCO but are Dr. Edwards said, there isn't much out there on the internet (which to me seems a little odd as the internet usually has everything about everything!). I'm wondering if you've had more luck than me in sourcing information regarding PCO? I think Dr. Edwards is great, but I'd like to looking in to PCO a little more just to get a better understanding of it. Thanks!

kir said...

Hi there,

Thank you for your really interesting post about PCO. I was diagnosed with insulin resistance a year ago and was never given an answer as to why I had it. I was never overweight, lived a relatively active lifestyle and apart from the occasional bad food did not eat badly.

My then doctor put me on metformin--which actually has the lovely effect (for some people) of depleting your b12... I've seen other doctors, but most seem pretty cavalier about it as I'm not an overweight person. Another doctor then referred me to get an ultrasound which suggested I was polycystic.

I've been on the pill for three years, regularly skip and any hormone tests I've done have always come back normal. It seems like I don't have the syndrome, yet my doctors insist that I have insulin resistance because I have poly cystic ovaries. Is this really the case or are they as in the dark as I am?

I've finally pushed for a referral for an endocrinologist, but am still rather frustrated at the blase way my doctors have delt with it.

Thanks for any advice you have!

Beth_M said...

Hi, I know your post is over a year old, but I just found it under a Google search "Polycystic ovaries not PCOS" and am I ever glad I found it!
I went to the doctor for my annual pap, and she asked me if there was anything abnormal going on. I told her I'd been having small, slight, almost unnoticeable twinges in my ovary area for a few months. she sent me for an ultrasound and it revealed "multiple follicles consistent with PCOS" . Since I am on the pill already and have been for a few years, she's suggesting just to wait it out, so I have another ultrasound in six months.
What I've been reading on the internet in the past few weeks (impatiently waiting for the six months to finish!) I don't have ANY of the symptoms of PCOS, just the skipping of periods when I'm not on the pill, and the cysts. I get my period every three months exactly when not on the pill - always, ever since my first one!

I'm so glad that someone has posted this article. You have no idea how much hope you have given me, and knowing that someone else out there has the same symptoms as me and thinks the doctor is wrong in saying it's PCOS!

Thank you!

GMOfreeMAMA said...

Hi, thanks for your post! I was diagnosed with PCOS last year (2012) after battling for 2 years to fall pregnant for the second time.

My Daughter was conceived the first month off the pill which I had been on for 12 years. It turns out that the pill 'saved' my ovaries and had I not fallen pregnant that first cycle I may never have. For every month off the pill, after my daughter was born, PCO got worse (unbeknown to me).

Once diagnosed I was put on Clomid by my Gynae and took it for 6 cycles. Although I did ovulate on the Clomid, everything else seemed to get worse. No CM, very scanty periods, longer than usual cycles etc

I decided to ditch the Clomid and see a Fertility Homeopath/Acupuncturist. Before the Clomid I would have 3 month cycles and sometimes had to take Provera to get the ball rolling.

My Homeopath put me on a diet: No Sugar/Wheat/Coffee/Alcohol. I have acupuncture twice a week and have been prescribed homeopathic and Chinese remedies to support hormone production. The first month into this new regime I had my first 28 day cycle ever and ovulated on day 14. I have also dropped 6 kg's in 3 months. I do not have insulin resistance however, and fall into the skinny PCOS category but had picked up extra weight taking the Fertility Medication which I could not shift.

I have since had a cycle every month which is sometimes a little longer than 28 days but according to my Homeopath this is normal. I had an ultrasound this morning showing 7 follicles in my one ovary and 12 in the other. The plan is to keep up the regime and scan again in 4 months time. By then I hope to have fewer follicles and by the 6 to 9 month mark I hope to have just one follicle developing.

I honestly think the Clomid did more harm than good. After all it overstimulates the ovaries to produce follicles which is the problem I have in the first place.

I completely agree with you that diet has everything to do with controlling PCOS whether you have insulin resistance or not. I am not on a Paleo diet but do use many Primal recipes. Keeping blood sugar under control is a massive factor.

I have told myself that regardless of being able to conceive again, I need to get healthy or will eventually end up with two options: 1. Stay on the pill for the rest of my life to regulate my cycle or 2.Run the risk of developing Uterine Cancer if my lining does not shed each month. Honestly neither of those options sounds great to me.

Moral of my long drawn out story. Sometimes getting your body to sort itself out naturally may take a little longer but is a long term option if you are willing to make some lifestyle changes! It wasn't easy (I am a chocoholic through and through) but if this works out it will certainly be worth it!

Hannah said...

I know you posted this in 2009 but I went though pretty much the same as you, was on Yasmin for 6 years then came off cause I wanted to be natural-only got 3 normal periods in 6 months- went to the doc and a scan (my results were similar to yours) and I was told to get back on the pill and to take Metformin.

I have just got back on the pill but no way am I taking Metformin (i'm from the UK but currently living in the USA and in the UK they would Never prescribe it for PCOS). So basically after all the research I have done I wanted to share this http://natural-fertility-info.com/cinnamon-benefits-pcos-endometriosis-uterine-fibroids-menorrhagia.html

Its really sad doctors never mention natural remedies and are so fast to "sell" you medicine.

Hope that helps you & good luck!!

jannice salvador said...

HI, I'm glad i found this article, I was diagnosed with left polycystic ovary, and i was confused it was same as PCOS. I have no issues with my period ever since,comes on the right day, i can even track when it is coming,not until this month when i had 14 days of very light vaginal bleeding,you cannot even tell that it was period.I went to my obgyn thinking i was pregnant but found out that my endometrium lining thickened and my left ovary was polycystic but my right ovary was fine and actually about to ovulate an egg,but she told me my condition is the same as PCOS.I'm so confused, dont have all the symptoms they are mentioning about PCOS. Should i need to have a second opinion?