September represents a lot of things for a lot of different people: For some, September is the month they absolutely dread because it symbolizes the end of summer, while others (aka me) have anxiously awaited September’s return and all the fall foliage, pumpkin spice, and apple-flavored everything it has to offer. Save for the seasonal rivalries, though, September is PCOS Awareness Month, and Modern Fertility's PCOS hotline is open for calls starting Sept. 4 through Sept. 7. So, maybe you're not a huge fan of autumn leaves or piping hot PSLs, but I think we can all agree it’s important for everyone to educate themselves on what PCOS is, and to familiarize themselves with coping mechanisms, as well as ways to be there for a loved one who might be experiencing the condition.
Per the PCOS Awareness Association's (PCOSAA) definition, PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it's a condition that affects roughly 10 million women around the world. Though scientists and medical professionals have struggled to figure out what, exactly, the root cause of PCOS is, what we do know for sure is that PCOS is a type of hormonal issue having to do with androgen (the male hormone), insulin (the hormone that breaks down sugars in the body), and progesterone (a hormone that releases from the ovaries and plays a role in menstruation). PCOS is also believed to be the result of some kind of genetic or environmental disruption, according to the PCOSAA , which basically means you could have been born with the condition in your genes, or it could develop over time. Symptoms of PCOS, the organization explains, include things like weight gain, fatigue, hair growth, hair loss, extreme pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, loss of a period, and infertility. It’s very confusing, very unfortunate, and while there is no cure for PCOS at this time, there are treatments and ways to cope with the symptoms.
The problem with PCOS, according Julie Lamb, MD, FACOG, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle, is its branding. “Women walk into my office every day who don’t know that they have PCOS. Often, they’ve had a lifetime of irregular menstrual cycles that have become a problem now that they are trying for pregnancy,” she tells Elite Daily over email. “It is not a problem with ovarian cysts, but more of a hormone imbalance that leads to not ovulating.” This, Lamb says, is where resources like Modern Fertility’s “Hormone Hotline” come in.
“PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility — about 20 percent of women of reproductive age have it, but over 70 percent are unaware,” Afton Vechery, the co-founder of women’s health company Modern Fertility, tells Elite Daily. To offer women the chance to receive the kind of information they otherwise wouldn’t, and to celebrate PCOS Awareness Month, Vechery and her team created the "Hormone Hotline." Here’s how it works: Lamb, along with other fertility doctors, nurses, and experts, will be available at (415) 569-PCOS, in shifts starting Tuesday, Sept. 4 through Thursday, Sept. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, as well as on Friday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT.
During each session, Lamb explains, experts will be answering any questions callers have about PCOS, and they'll receive a follow-up email with additional information about the condition. “I’m not giving the caller medical advice (only her physician should do that), but I can walk her through how hormones and PCOS play a role in fertility and her overall health, and how her questions relate to those I get every day from my patients,” Lamb tells Elite Daily. Even if you don't have a specific question to ask, she adds, you can absolutely dial in for introductory information. TBH, before I actually started working in the health and wellness space, I didn't know a whole lot about PCOS. Resources like Modern Fertility's hotline make these facts easily accessible, not to mention actually digestible because, rather than attempting to read through a textbook or a dense, online fact page, you're able to actually talk one-on-one with an expert in the space.
Unfortunately, Modern Fertility's PCOS hotline will only run through Friday, Sept. 7, but there are a ton of excellent resources online you can turn to for more information about PCOS. Lamb encourages women to make appointments with fertility doctors and experts to get a better idea of what PCOS is, what it feels like, and what treatments are available to help you cope with the symptoms, and to help with fertility when the time comes. In addition, Vechery adds that Modern Fertility's blog is also a great resource, with content "covering everything from getting pregnant with PCOS to how to connect with other women to help manage symptoms to PCOS 101," all of which has been reviewed and/or written by physicians in the field.
Hopefully, Vechery says, the takeaway from PCOS Awareness Month and Modern Fertility's Hormone Hotline will be that women can and should be well-prepared and better-equipped for conversations with their doctors on the topic of PCOS. Remember that knowledge is power, and even though only you know what's going on in your body, sometimes all you can identify are the symptoms. Don't be afraid to speak up about PCOS, and ask any and all questions you might have, both this month and beyond.