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5 Questions to Ask your Doctor about your PCOS

We know that living with PCOS can be tough and we know that we have it for life. We have to look after ourselves now so that we don’t suffer from the possible other health effects of PCOS – high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes.

It sounds scary but with the right support and approach, we don’t have to face these things.
So, what support and approach am I talking about?

Well, I see it as being a number of things. Firstly, as you know, I am a firm believer in the power of nutrition, supplements and lifestyle elements in managing your PCOS. In fact, leading a PCOS friendly lifestyle should ALWAYS be the first line of treatment for PCOS (1).

Eating well for your PCOS, exercising regularly and taking supplements have been shown to help with:

  • Improving insulin sensitivity (and therefore avoiding Type 2 Diabetes)
  • Improved menstrual cycles
  • Improved fertility
  • Less long term complications

That sounds good to me!

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But there is another element that we have to consider.

PCOS is ultimately a medical condition and we need some support from our doctors.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 questions that you need to ask your doctor about your PCOS:

1. I have been diagnosed with PCOS, what support can you offer me?

Whether you have just recently been diagnosed or have known about your PCOS for a while, it is important to know what support is available to you. For example, your doctor may be able to refer you to a fertility specialist or prescribe medication to help with your symptoms.

2. Is my thyroid healthy and functioning well?

We know that hypothyroidism and PCOS often go hand in hand. In fact, one study found that 22.5% of women with PCOS have subclinical hypothyroidism. That is a lot of us.

The thing is, that hypothyroidism can make your PCOS symptoms worse. Here are the symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irregularities with your menstrual cycle

So, you can see that even if you can improve your underlying PCOS, if your thyroid is not functioning well, you will still have some frustrating symptoms to deal with.

You can ask your doctor to do a blood test that will check your thyroid function. This blood test would assess the levels of Thyroid stimulating Hormone, T4, T3 and free T4 (2).

3. Is my cholesterol level healthy?

High cholesterol is another risk factor of PCOS and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that cholesterol is assessed every two years for women with PCOS (3).

A really interesting research study carried out by Dr. Amy Dhesi of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center found that only 54% of doctors order the recommended fasting lipid profile for their patients who have PCOS.

If your doctor has not checked your cholesterol levels recently, please make sure that you ask to have the test done at your next appointment.

4. Am I insulin resistant or pre diabetic?

PCOS is very closely linked with insulin resistance. In fact, one study suggests that 50-70% of women with PCOS may have some degree of insulin resistance (4).

In fact, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have concluded that PCOS is a major risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and propose that ALL women with PCOS over the age of 30 are screened for Diabetes (5).

Now, the study carried about By Dr Dhesi found that only 7% of doctors would order a 2 hour oral glucose tolerance (OGTT) test for women with PCOS. Many doctors screen for diabetes using the hemoglobin A1C test. This tests for average blood sugar levels but it is not as sensitive as the OGTT (hubby is a Type 1 Diabetic and his doctors use his HBA1C as an indication of how well controlled his blood sugars are).

Also, many doctors don’t repeat these tests unless a woman’s medical history has changed. I would suggest that you need to be screened for possible diabetes every 2 to 5 years.

5. I know that PCOS has some other health implications. What should I be looking out for?

As I said right in the beginning, we know that PCOS is a risk factor for things like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Hopefully these are thing that we will all avoid by following a good PCOS diet, taking our supplements and exercising.

But as we all know, nothing is guaranteed in life. So, make sure to ask your doctor if there is anything you should look out for or be aware of in terms of these secondary conditions.

Now, this list of questions is not exhaustive. I’m sure there are a lot of other questions that you may have for your doctor. Be sure to write them down before your next appointment and take them with you so that you can walk away with as many answers as possible.

Remember, knowledge is power!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

16 Responses

16 Responses

  1. Dx with PCOS. I have had 6 periods since Nov-Feb. suffer from RFID (restrictive food intake disorder). Eat the same 5 foods everyday for past 25 years. Increased chin acne, chin hair, headaches, supradenitis (axilla), weight gain, frequent colds (4-5 per year), temp sensitive (hot to cold). Put on metforman and aldactone. Immediately felt headache over left eye (daily and comes after I eat, nausea, unable to eat cheese ( 1 of the 5 foods I eat) without getting diarrhea. Would like to start your program however my diet restrictions I feel will interfere with seeing benefits. Need advice

  2. Hi all. i am 38 years old and my hubby and i have been married now for almost 4 years without any luck falling pregnant. Due to my age i was trying to fall pregnant asap. In 2012 i was first diagnosed with an overactive “graves disease”( 1st shock), i had heart pelpertations, sweaty armpits, facial hair and hand tremors. I really felt menopausal(lol) but the doctor put me on Neomercazole and per-blocka to help my symptoms. Its been 5 years now and im still taking the neomercazole daily and then 3 months ago i was diagnosed with pcos (2nd shock)so now i know why i didnt have a period for so long even as a teenager and in my twenies i has missed periods andwhy i cant conceive. I have been reading up on pcos and have been trying to eatwell and exercise but i always fall back to my old ways. Doctor put me on metformin and told me to loose 20kg before i can go onto fertility treatment as i have more then enough eggs but im nit ovulating, hence the missed period. Everytime i take the metformin i feel nauseous, am i suppose to feel this way? Do u see a dietician or is it a waist of money? I desperately need help and guidance.

    1. Hi Natalie,
      I am also on metformin and I would suggest a couple of things. First, is your metformin the Extended Release (ER)? This pill is coated so it doesn’t desolve as quickly in your system and can help with the nausea and other gi symptoms (like diarrhea, alwasys fun). Second, when do you take your metformin? In the morning? With meals? Do you take 2 pills at a time? Changing when you take thrm can also help. I take 1 500mg at lunch and 2 with dinner now, but when I first started I found that taking them right before bed helped me manage those darm side effects while my system got used to it…
      I hope this helps! Good luck!
      Keli

    2. Ask the Dr about a chart on how to take metformin, starting very slowly ,half a pill, then after a couple of days, you up your dose. You also ween off very slowly. There may be healthier options, like powdered inositol from the health food store, or chromium picolinate.. Cinnamon.. Sugar elimination.. I’ve done them all, my last child was born at age 39.

  3. I was diagnosed just under 9 months ago after me and my husband hadn’t fallen pregnant within 2 years of trying. I went to get my blood pressure checked as I felt it was very high at work one day, the dr did a few blood tests and checked my BP which was sitting at 171/111. She put me on medication very quickly for this. Results came back and she confirmed I had high Cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, PCOS and high blood pressure. Now on 3 medications and only 35 years old. My diet is pretty bad and I’ve just started to walk with my husband up to 5 kilometres a day. I’ve noticed the past couple of months my symptoms are getting worse with very bad lower back pain and very sore around my ovaries each morning. I have started to take a few vitamins to help like Vitamin B, D, CoQ10, Royal Jelly and fish oil tablets. Hopefully it’s doing something in there to help with my fertility. My periods come every month but may be a day or 2 late and last for about 4 days but just not sure if I’m ovulating each month. Going on 3 years of TTC so hopefully baby dust falls on us soon. Such a struggle when people don’t realise how bad it can be ?. Stay strong everyone xx

  4. Hi all.

    So I’ve been having pains in my pelvis for a while, all situated on the left side. It feels swollen a little in the groin area and I’m bloated a lot. I am diagnosed ibs, but because I’m in more pain the doctor had all my bloods taken. My surgery called me yesterday and asked me to see my doc to discuss the results. So, I went down last evening, and my doctor told me that it looks as though I have pcos. I just went a little blank really. He did say he was going to order an ultrasound and also an appointment to see the gynaecologist to have a camera take a look at my ovaries. I’m worried. The more I read into it the more afraid I am. 4 years ago all out of nowhere my heart started skipping beats and there was a rapid change in my heart rate. I’ve had all sorts of tests done for that aswell but it seems nothing is wrong other than my heart beats faster than it used to. The doc put me on beta blockers then and I’m still on them now. What with reading about heart issues and the link with pcos, im just wondering what the future holds. Thanks for reading.

  5. I am getting this information for my granddaughter, Anna who is 16-1/2 yrs. old. Ever since she was very young she was overweight and had the brown tell-tale signs on her skin (around neck, under arms which her doctor had a long name for it. I can only remember the last part”niigricans”. I also think it is because of insulin resistance. As she has reached puberty she has excessive hair on face and legs, is overweight and her periods are irregular. Her complection has been pretty bad off and on. She has seen an endocrinologist and was put on Metformin. She has been seeing her for 2 yrs. now and I don’t see much improvement. She was also high in testosterone but was given a hormone for awile but is now off of that. She has eliminated milk from her diet and wheat. She is vegetarian which makes meals very difficult for me to fix. She is now lifting weights and doing some running hoping to lose weight. She will be seeing the endocrinologist late this month – and will be asking the questions you have given us. Thank you for the help. She gets very discouraged sometimes as do I!

    Gerry Best

  6. I was put on kurvelo for my pcos and it works great. But the one that I am working on right now is really hard for me is to lose weight I am at 227 I am having a hard time losing the weight and getting very frustrating and feeling like a looser

    1. Gail, you are not a loser. It’s only normal to get frustrated and unfortunately it’s hard for a lot of us to lose the weight. I understand your feelings. However, you are not a loser.

  7. I have none of the usual symptoms of PCOS except for very long cycles and of course multiple cysts on my ovaries -I am normal/slightly under ‘normal weight’ I had every possible blood test by no issues with insulin, thyroid, etc. but do suffer from terrible fatigue – confusing to know if I should be cutting out all the same foods as someone with insulin or thyroid issues. Interesting to know about Cholesterol though – will get that checked..

    1. I hope someone responds to your post because I have all the same symptoms. Hoping we aren’t the only ones out there.:-)

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