Irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal acne, weight gain—all symptoms of PCOS but also all commonplace occurrences in the grand scheme of being a woman. For anyone feeling like their hormones are a bit out of whack (raise of hands here) but haven't received an official PCOS diagnosis—this one's for you.
We know PCOS is extremely common, affecting as many as 5 million women of reproductive age in the U.S. But we also know that getting a clear diagnosis can all too often be a longer journey filled with trial and error and a multitude of symptoms that may come and go along the way.
The good news? Diagnosis or not, there are still ways you can support your hormones today. We brought in OB/GYN and Perelel Medical co-Founder, Dr. Banafsheh Bayati, MD, OB/GYN, FACOG, to weigh in and break down exactly what to do next if you think you may have PCOS.
Keep reading for her tips.
Step 1: Build Your Support Team
"First, discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider," says Dr. Bayati. Why? That's because, "PCOS is not uncommon and the evaluation and diagnosis are extremely helpful for fertility, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and overall longevity."
"Most primary care providers, including nurse practitioners, can start the initial evaluation," she continues. "Then, they can refer you to a gynecologist or endocrinologist for further assistance."
Step 2: Diagnostic Testing
Since PCOS is hallmarked by irregular menstrual cycles, Dr. Bayati says, "first rule out unsuspected pregnancy."
Next, complete testing with your primary care practitioner and inform them of any family medical history that may be relevant.
"A good history and physical, as always, is the place to start," says Dr. Bayati. From there, "laboratory testing is used to look for increased testosterone levels, glucose intolerance, and elevated lipid values."
Finally, your doctor may schedule "a transvaginal pelvic ultrasound to look for polycystic ovaries."
Tests for PCOS
- Laboratory Blood Work
- Checking For:
- Testosterone Levels
- Glucose Intolerance
- Elevated Lipid Values
- Transvaginal Pelvic Ultrasound
- Checking For:
- Polycystic Ovaries
Diagnosed with PCOS? Find the Treatment Plan That Works for You
"Most providers will start with education around the diagnosis as well as recommending lifestyle modifications including nutrition, supplements like Perelel's PCOS Support ($54), and exercise, along with start of medications as needed," explains Dr. Bayati.
Haven't Been Diagnosed with PCOS? Here's How to Support Your Hormones
First thing's first: If you're feeling confused as to what's really going on with your body—we get it.
"Many patients with PCOS experience frustration with delayed diagnosis," says Dr. Bayati. But finding a doctor that you feel really listens and takes their time with their evaluation will go a long way. "I️ would recommend finding a primary care provider who takes their time with the basic tenant of healthcare: a thorough history and physical," she continues.
Nonetheless, Dr. Bayati reminds us of the importance of being your own health advocate. "I️ would recommend individual research to better educate oneself, most importantly through reliable sources of knowledge," she explains. "In all aspects of healthcare, recognizing the partnership of individual research, knowledge and advocacy along with the role of your provider is beneficial."
Still, without an official PCOS diagnosis there are still steps you can take to support your hormonal health at home.
"Anyone who has cycle irregularities without a diagnosis of PCOS can try life modifications, like a cleaner diet, regular exercise, and PCOS Support ($54) to help with such changes," says Dr. Bayati.
"I️ don’t think PCOS is black and white. As a syndrome it’s on a spectrum and thus people with mild symptoms but without a diagnosis can definitely try vitamins as a way to support their hormonal health."
Get more PCOS tips from Dr. Bayati in conversation with actress and PCOS advocate, Andrea Lewis, and Allara Health's Lead Dietitian, Felice Ramallo, MSCN, RN below.
Shop OB/GYN-founded vitamins for PCOS + bundle to a Perelel pack for full-spectrum nutrition. Plus, get more tips for managing PCOS from our panel of doctors and experts now.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.