The onset of covid has not only stirred the anxiety of contracting the disease but has also triggered various underlying conditions.Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of them.
PCOS, a hormonal disorder, leads to infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or an increase in androgen levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of follicles and fail to release eggs on a regular basis. A guide to dealing with PCOS has previously been discussed in one of our blogs. But you might be wondering how to manage PCOS during a pandemic like the Covid-19 and how your periods might be affected if you contracted the virus.
Read on to find out.
PCOS - A Brief Overview
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which can affect multiple organs and cause various complications in different age groups, is a hormonal condition that can affect fertility, daily lifestyle choices and various other areas of life.
It can occur between 14-44 years of age and can last a lifetime. PCOS symptoms include irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, spotting, obesity, weight gain, excessive hair growth on the face, belly and chest, darkening of skin folds, inability to conceive, high blood sugar, mental health issues and sleep apnea. These may not be the only signs of PCOS since symptoms vary according to age and lifestyle.
There are various ways to manage PCOS. The most effective treatment plan is making lifestyle changes. Add in a healthy diet and a few exercises, and you’re good to go. PCOS treatment is not only about getting diagnosed and keeping the condition under check but also about finding ways to cope with the condition while living a healthy and normal life. This may be difficult during Covid but not impossible.
PCOS Causes, Symptoms, and Complications (During Covid)
The exact causes of PCOS are unknown though genetics play a significant role. A scientific explanation would be the presence of androgens, a male hormone, in excess. High levels of this hormone prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation), which causes irregular menstrual cycles. Weight gain or wrong lifestyle choices can also be a contributing factor.
COVID and the COVID vaccine have been reported to have an adverse effect on periods. Women across the world have said that their periods become longer, heavier, or irregular post a covid infection or the vaccine. This includes a host of effects COVID has had on the body, most of which remain murky and unmapped—such as mystery blood clots that were linked to the Covishield vaccine in European countries. Some doctors have reported that the COVID infection and vaccine affect the endometrium lining and the blood vessels that supply it. This affects the hormonal surge in the body and the thickening of the endometrial lining. In most cases this thickening is over-extended, resulting in a heavier flow.
Importantly, though, all COVID-related effects on one’s periods are temporary and entirely reversible. You should go back to your original period cycle within 4-6 months or less.
PCOS symptoms may vary from person to person, according to different ages but here are a few signs of PCOS that may be substantial to getting diagnosed. COVID often worsens these symptoms, or makes the detection of PCOS even more difficult.
- IRREGULAR PERIODS: Irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common PCOS symptoms. Some may have less than nine periods a year, with long gaps between periods and abnormally heavy periods. PCOS may worsen these intervals.
- EXCESS ANDROGEN: Increase in the levels of androgen hormones may result in physical changes like excess facial and body hair (also known as hirsutism), and acne and male-pattern baldness. This is not a cause for concern if you get diagnosed at the earliest and find methods to keep the condition in check. Irregular periods due to COVID may result in higher androgens in the body. The best way to deal with consequences is by diagnosing a doctor—they may suggest superficial methods to better the efforts, or hormone pills/injections.
- POLYCYSTIC OVARIES: Having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome might lead to enlarged ovaries and covering of follicles (immature or premature eggs). Due to this, the ovaries might function irregularly and cause an imbalance in the level of hormones. It is unclear how COVID may affect this, we recommend checking with your gynecologist.
Complications of PCOS generally include infertility, high risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer, cardiovascular diseases and obesity-led issues. With the rise of Covid, it was found that women with PCOS may be at a slightly higher risk for severe Covid. There could also be a decrease in immunity and vitamin D levels, which may be triggered by reduced sun exposure due to quarantine measures. The stress of contracting the virus may not help with managing PCOS symptoms.
How COVID Can Influence PCOS
Contracting the virus has seemed to affect the menstrual cycle of many women. Those who are yet to contract it are burdened with the stress and anxiety of contracting the disease. This in turn triggers your PCOS symptoms. But you’re not wrong in worrying about it. In fact, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is linked with certain factors like hyper-inflammation, low vitamin D levels, and an increase in androgen levels. These are also contributing factors to PCOS.
PCOS is also linked with other health conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and hypothyroidism, which may potentially lead to an increase in the risk of contracting Covid. PCOS is not just a hormonal imbalance but also a condition involving multiple body systems and hence can lead to a chain of reactions to the current situation. The stress arising from Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can have adverse outcomes and affect your PCOS symptoms.
Why Managing PCOS During COVID is Essential
It is important to stick to infection control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic as PCOS patients have a 28 per cent higher likelihood of infection than others, according to a recent study. Contracting the virus is also likely to affect menstrual cycles.
Beena, a 27 year-old has found her menstrual to be irregular after contracting Covid. “My flow is heavier than usual and I have extreme cramps both, before and during my periods’, she states in despair, like many others who go through the same.
As mentioned above, there are various factors that could increase the risk of contracting the virus. But worry not, for the struggle of bearing longer, heavier and extra painful periods won’t last that long. If you haven’t contracted it yet, it is best to follow through with your PCOS treatment plan as well as keep yourself fit and immune for as long as possible. Taking your vaccine shots safely is also important.
All About PCOS Management During COVID
While you may go through a series of complications, it is always best to stay calm and keep your stress at bay as this immensely helps in managing PCOS. Here are a few pointers on how to manage PCOS:
- Make sure to spend some time on self-care.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by consuming a balanced diet. Avoid junk food in order to manage obesity and other issues. Speak to your doctor about getting supplements in case you have any deficiencies—this will help boost your immunity.
- Stay fit even while being indoors by doing whatever small exercise you can or by joining an online gym class.
- Cigarettes and alcohol should be avoided at all costs.
- Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Consult a professional if the stress becomes unhealthy and starts affecting your PCOS symptoms.
- Regular health checkups and revised treatment plans are important too.
- Constantly reassure yourself that even if you have contracted the virus, the complications of it are temporary and may last only a few months. Don’t let go of hope!