You must take care of the symptoms of PCOS, especially during the pandemic. Dr Manjula Patil, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR, Bangalore shared tips on how to manage the symptoms of the condition.
PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a common endocrine disorder of women in reproductive age. Studies have shown, one in five women (about 20 percent) of reproductive age women in India suffer from this condition and it is more often being seen in adolescent girls in recent times. Women with PCOS have irregular menstrual cycles due to imbalance of hormones like unopposed oestrogen and increased testosterone. The other symptoms may include weight gain, acne, unwanted hair growth, anxiety and depression.
Long term consequences of untreated PCOS are increased susceptibility to Type 2 Diabetes, heart diseases, dyslipidaemia and uterine cancer. PCOS is in fact the most common ovulatory dysfunction causing subfertility and need for the treatment to conceive.
PCOS and COVID-19 pandemic
Women with PCOS are known to have higher risks if confronted with COVID infection. Although there is no cure for PCOS, to manage its symptoms gynaecologists highly recommend weight loss and reduction of stress. Increase in weight causes hormonal imbalance leading to irregular periods and decrease in ovulation. Stress increases pre-existing hormonal conditions leading to exacerbation of PCOS. Nevertheless, many women are finding it difficult to pay attention to their physical and mental health in these trying times.
Due to the pandemic, women are experiencing more anxiety and there is a decline in physical activity. Stress can be related to the fear of infection, job insecurity, financial problems and the uncertainty about the future. The long and frequent lockdowns have spoilt their routines and regular physical activities as well. Public places like parks, gyms, yoga classes where they could exercise are closed. With everyone staying indoors, family related responsibilities have also increased for women. To top it all, the number of cases in the country is increasing on a regular basis and no one knows when this situation is going to end. Therefore, it is not surprising that many women may be stressed and not leading the healthiest of lifestyles right now. This is resulting in many of them getting their periods irregularly or in some cases entirely missing them. If women already have PCOS, it will certainly get aggravated during stressful times like this.
Managing PCOS amidst the pandemic
Granted, the situation looks grim. However, that does not mean women should ignore their physical and mental health wellness. We must accept the new reality and learn to lead our lives as normally as we can, while taking the necessary safety precautions. Remember PCOS can always be managed by simple lifestyle changes.
Regular Physical activity: Understandably, you may not feel safe to go walking or jogging during these times, so you can decide an exercise routine that you will be able to do at home. There are many professional trainers posting different exercise videos like aerobics, yoga, etc. on the internet that you can watch and follow. On the other hand, there are plenty of videos available offering customised videos for PCOS condition. Regular physical activity for about 45 minutes to 1 hour will greatly help to regularise your periods and reduce other symptoms of PCOS as maintaining healthy weight can reduce insulin and androgen levels and helps restore ovulation.
Taking care of your mental health: As mentioned above stress aggravates the pre-existing PCOS symptoms. It is normal to experience anxiety or even depression during these times, but it is essential that you take necessary steps to keep your mental health under check. Practicing yoga and mindfulness can help reduce stress. Try some breathing exercises and meditation that will help you relax. Make time for yourself and your loved ones. If your mental health still does not get better, seek help from a professional therapist immediately.
Balanced diet: Consume foods that are rich in fibre like broccoli, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, etc. Try to avoid sugary snacks and things that are high in carbohydrates like white bread or muffins. Eat a balanced diet. It is best to avoid consumption of caffeine and junk food.
Proper sleep pattern: Lack of activity and disturbance in your routine due to the pandemic may have affected your sleep cycle. However, having a proper sleep schedule is necessary to manage PCOS. Sleep deprivation increases fatigue, mood swings, hunger, decreases insulin sensitivity and makes you crave carbs. This in turn could lead to overeating and weight gain, which can result in your PCOS symptoms shooting up. Going to bed early and waking up early can have long-term health benefits and enhance good metabolism. To prepare for a good sleep, try to limit your screen time before sleeping, avoid caffeine, sleep in a cool dark room to regularise your sleep cycle.
The above lifestyle changes will certainly help but there are times when certain medications may be required to reduce PCOS. It is very important that women do not ignore the symptoms of this condition and consult their doctor. They will be able to give them the necessary information, guidance, and treatments. Remember awareness and timely treatment is the key to a great reproductive health.
By Dr Manjula Patil, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR, Bangalore.
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