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If you’ve heard about PCOS but never knew exactly what it was, it’s time to get acquainted: polycystic ovary syndrome affects one in ten women of childbearing age, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a nutshell, PCOS causes major changes to a woman's hormones, resulting in infertility, irregular periods and a bunch of other issues (like acne and weight gain). In the last few years, PCOS has become much more mainstream, but there’s still a lot of gray area. We checked in with Dr. Fiona McCulloch, author of the book 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS, to set a few things straight.

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Myth: You Can’t Get Pregnant If You Have PCOS
When you have PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with ovulation, and if you don't ovulate, you can't get pregnant—it’s one of the most common causes of infertility. Luckily, though, it’s definitely still possible to conceive, either without help or, more likely, with minor assistance or IVF. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.

Myth: If You Don’t Have Ovarian Cysts, It Can’t Be PCOS
While ovarian cysts are a common part of PCOS (hence the name), you could get a diagnosis without having any. Many women don’t have cysts but have PCOS, while others have cysts but don’t have PCOS. In fact, PCOS cysts are actually different from other kinds of ovarian cysts, since they're made up of multiple small follicles that haven't successfully released an egg and get built up in the ovaries. 

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pcos myths weight loss
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Myth: Losing Weight Will Cure Your PCOS
PCOS makes it harder for your body to use the hormone insulin, which converts sugars and starches from food into energy. Per our friends at WebMD, this can cause insulin and sugar to build up in the bloodstream, leading to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Losing weight can be tough when you have PCOS, but exercise and diet can really help—in fact, they can ease symptoms and could make it easier to get pregnant down the road—but unfortunately, there’s no official cure. (Yet.)

Myth: If You Have It, You’ll Know
Not necessarily. Like many medical conditions, no two cases of PCOS are exactly alike. Because symptoms vary from woman to woman, they can be subtle (and sometimes misdiagnosed). It could take years to diagnose a case of PCOS, so if you have an inkling that something is up with your body but you’re not displaying all of the symptoms you read about online, be sure to play it safe and check in with your doctor.

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