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September is PCOS Awareness Month. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and it affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age. Part of cultivating our awareness of PCOS is understanding what PCOS is, how it affects different parts of our lives, and how we can respond to a diagnosis. With many of our patients focusing on fertility, we hope to offer a few ways that Chinese Medicine can support optimizing women’s fertility goals to reach their most conceivable cycle and fertile potential.
PCOS is a serious genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects women and girls. It is the leading cause of female infertility. Infertility can be, for many women, the most distressing aspect of a PCOS diagnosis. One of the main symptoms of PCOS is having irregular ovulation, which presents a challenge to predicting fertile windows. For some cycles there is no ovulation that occurs. This can feel frustrating and anxiety-inducing. Some of our clients come to us after living for years with PCOS and others are just beginning to navigate their diagnosis. Chinese Medicine can support PCOS symptoms, even if a patient is not currently trying to conceive, and offer regulation and support to the body and mind.
When we work with a client with PCOS, our goal is to help regulate ovulation -- encouraging this process to happen in a timely manner, so we can better understand their cycle. A regular cycle consists of a flow phase (menses), a follicular phase, ovulation, and a luteal phase that helps to build the lining of the uterus to support implantation of an embryo.
One component of ovulating with PCOS is that people will ovulate late in their cycle. This means the follicular phase is too long. Often this will be followed by a shorter luteal phase. If the luteal phase is shorter, there is less time for the body to build a thick endometrium. Part of treating PCOS at Blue Ova might look like prompting the body to ovulate earlier, while supporting a longer luteal phase and encouraging a thick and rich uterine lining to grow.
Insulin also factors into PCOS cases. One specific type of PCOS is Insulin-resistant PCOS, in which high insulin and leptin impede ovulation and stimulate the ovaries to make testosterone. This is one of the causes of some other side effects of PCOS like facial hair and acne. Chinese Medicine herbs that we recommend within our clinic seek to balance the insulin. A nutritional supplement like Myoinositol helps to balance out insulin sensitivity. When there is more regularity to the insulin, the body is more capable of ovulating consistently in the cycle. This helps us to support our patients in understanding their unique cycles and the fertile windows within it.
Any diagnosis can feel difficult, upsetting, lonely or an exhausting combination of feelings. We hope that those living with PCOS feel supported in their journey-- by their practitioners, community and selves. If you have more questions about your PCOS diagnosis and wonder if Chinese Medicine could support you in your journey, we would love to hear from you. We offer free consults with our Clinical Director. We will celebrate PCOS Awareness Month by continuing to educate our community about PCOS and being allies to those with a PCOS diagnosis.