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Understanding PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects an estimated 8–13% of reproductive-aged women. Up to 70% of affected women remain undiagnosed worldwide. (Source:

In this blog I asked some questions to Emma Evans, my supervisor and fellow Hypnotherapist/Counsellor, who has the condition, PCOS.

What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and it is essentially a hormone imbalance that affects the way the ovaries function. Most of the issues caused in PCOS are because of higher levels of androgens. Androgens are male hormones, and if a woman produces too many of those, it can cause a variety of symptoms:

  • Irregular Periods

  • Absent periods or longer/heavier than usual

  • Infertility

  • Miscarriages

  • Painful pelvis or pain on intercourse

  • High blood pressure

  • Weight gain or lack of weight loss

  • Ovarian Cysts

  • Higher levels of androgens/testosterone

  • Excess body hair

  • Male pattern baldness

  • Acne and bad skin

  • Stretch marks

  • Weight loss (rarer)

  • Skin Tags

  • Darkening or thickening of the skin

  • Depression/low mood

  • Tiredness and fatigue

  • Swelling in legs/feet

  • Headaches

  • Body pain

  • Brain fog

  • Gestational Diabetes

Is it genetic / hereditary?

PCOS is sometimes hereditary, genetics can play a part. But not all women who develop PCOS have a family history.

What symptoms do you personally experience?

Since puberty my main symptom has been that I’ve suffered weight gain and lack of weight loss.

Depression and low mood followed me around for many years, and my periods have always been much heavier and far more painful than normal. In my younger 20s I also had really oily and acne prone skin.

How have these symptoms affected you as a person?

The weight gain/lack of weight loss has been a long term battle, I have felt self conscious, judged, and seen as a lesser person etc because of it. People comment nastily about it, and GP’s can be extremely unhelpful, even if they know about the diagnosis. I’ve learnt over time what to eat and what not to eat, but it does feel like an uphill struggle at times. The periods have been wretched and painful, but Ive learnt ways to manage those over time. A couple of hot water bottles (one front, one back) and some paracetamol are my best friends at certain times of the month. Being a therapist, I’ve learnt how to handle the low moods or depression when it comes, keeping a positive frame of reference and using hypnosis have aways the best way of dealing with hormonal shifts.

If you could say anything to the public about PCOS awareness, what would that be?

Don’t assume someone who is heavy is lazy!! People who’ve got PCOS spend their entire life going up and down on the scale - it saps their confidence so you commenting or being judgemental about it just makes things worse.

Are there any support groups for women who have it?

Yes, one of the original support groups I joined years ago was called I think they still run, and they were a really great source of information when there really wasn’t a lot of knowledge around PCOS. There are also a bunch of Facebook groups women can join so they don’t feel so alone with it.

When a woman sees their GP to ask for help, is there anything they need to be aware of?

They need to go armed with a list of symptoms, and insist on further investigation. One of the best ways to diagnose PCOS is a scan of the ovaries. PCOS often shows up in cysts which are clear to see if the woman has a scan. If the Dr won’t send you for a scan, and you can afford to, book one privately! Another good sign of it is elevated male hormones in the blood. So ask for a blood test also.

Do women attend your clinic to seek support about PCOS?

They rarely recognise they have it! I sometimes work with women with weight loss, amongst other conditions and if someone comes to me and seemingly cannot lose weight, I always advise them to go to their GP and explain what symptoms they have. There is no cure for PCOS, but it can be really improved with the right diet, some light exercise and sometimes medication.

How can hypnotherapy help women who have PCOS?

Hypnotherapy can help to calm the levels of stress hormone in a woman’s body. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens such as testosterone, so if you then couple that with stress hormones, you’re battling two sets of hormones at once! If you can reduce the stress hormones, this helps massively to control the symptoms of PCOS. A lot of PCOS sufferers also benefit from confidence building because they often have been harshly judged over their weight. The other areas that can be improved with hypnotherapy are things like fertility! Women who have PCOS sometimes find it harder to get pregnant or to maintain pregnancy. Hypnosis can work with the mind-body connection and I’ve certainly seen a lot of women go on to have children after relaxing the mind and body using hypnosis.

How can we support friends who have it?

Talk to them about it and as previously stated, don’t judge them. If you notice any of the symptoms, send them helpful links to read about PCOS. If you think your teen might have it, get them checked by the GP, because the sooner you identify it, the better the longer term treatments and life changes can be.

The key takeaway from this blog. Don't suffer in silence. Speak to your GP or join PCOS support groups online. Contact me or Emma to discover how hypnotherapy can help you.

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