Living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Tuesday, 03 March 2009 14:23 Written by  Kenshata Harris

I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome at the age of 21. Last year, at my annual doctor’s visit, I  informed my doctor about my irregular and absent periods, excessive hair growth on my arms and legs, sudden weight gain, recurring acne, chills, sluggish days, inability to get pregnant, and increased sex drive.

imageShe explained that the imbalance of hormones could be a cause for the symptoms and encouraged me to take hormonal tests. I took a blood test that searched for high levels of testosterone and other hormones. During my follow-up visit, my results tested positive, but it does not stop here. The doctor told me that I had elevated levels of testosterone than normal and it was linked to PCOS. Looking dumb-founded, and completely lost, I asked “what is PCOS?”

Doctor Jane M. Nani from Fertility Centers in Illinois in Hoffman Estates gave me a broader view of the syndrome. She specializes in both obstetrics and gynecology and in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. For the past several years, she has been active in the clinical practice of reproductive medicine. Nani’s expertises are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Hysteroscopy surgery.    

Below, she addresses beneficial questions and offers advice about polycystic ovarian syndrome for those who are uninformed, misinformed, curious, or affected.

Kenshata (GMO): What is PCOS?

Nani: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of place. It may cause rare ovulation, unusual male-pattern hair growth, weight gain, difficult to lose weight, and other symptoms. To make proper diagnosis for PCOS a woman must have met two of three criteria: absent or irregular ovulation, the appearance of polycystic ovaries on ultrasound, and either clinical or laboratory evidence of increased male hormones such as, testosterone.

Kenshata: What are other symptoms of PCOS?

Nani: Infertility, severe acne, absent periods, and sleep apnea.

Kenshata: What is the main cause of PCOS?

Nani: It is linked to genetics. It is passed down in families and is manifested by puberty.

Kenshata: What is the percentage of women pass PCOS to their daughters?

Nani: 30 percent

Kenshata: How many women are affected worldwide?

Nani: 5- 10 percent of women in the reproductive age group of 15-45 are affected.

Kenshata: Which ethnic group are more affected or at risk for PCOS?

Nani: It is most prevalent in Hispanic and African American women, but all populations are affected as well.

Kenshata: What are the long-term and short-term effects of PCOS?

Nani: Short-term effects are infertility, and excessive hair growth on different parts of the body. Long-term effects include the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and uterine cancer.

Kenshata: What causes type 2 diabetes, and uterine cancer?

Nani: It causes diabetes because the body is not using Insulin well and sugar levels go up. It causes uterine cancer because the endometrial lining is not shedding, but building up. It builds up because a woman is not menstruating regularly and that can cause cancer.

Kenshata: What are some medications to help regulate PCOS?

Nani: Birth control pills, Metaformin, Spironolactone, and Clomid.

Kenshata: What are some of the purposes of the medications?

Nani: Birth control pills will help regulate the menstrual cycle and will ensure that the endmetruiun lining is shed. It also used for people who are not interested in pregnancy. Spirorolactone is used to reduce excessive hair growth on different parts of the body. Metaformin is used to balance hormones, increase ovulation, help lose weight, and help to clear the skin. Clomid is a fertility drug and it is only used if you are trying to get pregnant.

Kenshata: What are the main symptoms to look for if you think you have PCOS?

Nani: Irregular or absent periods, male-pattern hair growth, and difficulty losing or gaining weight.

Kenshata: How soon to make a doctor’s visit?

Nani: If a woman has not had a period in 3-6 months she should see a doctor.

How important is diet and exercise?

Nani: It is very important for a number of reasons. It will improve the rates of normal ovulation cycling and obtaining pregnancy. A woman should pick a routine activity on a daily basis for at least five times a week for 30 minutes. I suggest to power walk to lose weight as well. It is also important to cut-out high fat foods and limit the amount of red meat. However, increasing fibers, baked foods, salads, fruits, vegetables are healthier. No sweets also. A healthy diet will also decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. It will also reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Kenshata: What advice can give to people who are affected by PCOS, curious, or know someone affected by this?

Nani: It is important to make the diagnosis because of the health risks that are involved. There are treatments available that will help with all of the symptoms and help reach desired goals. On the other hand, it is still a lot of research being done on PCOS, but we have came this far.

For more information on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome please visit or call the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 1-800-994-9662.


Photography By Billy Montgomery

Kenshata Harris

Kenshata Harris

Kenshata Harris is a freelance writer and senior majoring in Magazine journalism at Columbia College Chicago. In addition to writing for GMO, she also interned at StreetWise, Chicago's homeless magazine, and is the IntenseCity Editor of her college magazine ECHO.

She can be contacted at