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Abhranila Das is a 30-year-old woman working as a manager at an industry body in Kolkata. With no domestic help during this covid-19 lockdown, she is caught between household chores and working from home. She has been struggling with irregular periods, mood swings, hair loss, pimples and a lot more over the last six years as she has polycystic ovarian disorder (PCOD)—a product of the sedentary digital era. With the increased stress levels during this time, her struggle has become even more difficult.
Das is not alone. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that PCOD, an endocrine disorder, impacted 116 million women worldwide. It is a health problem that affects one in every 10 women of childbearing age. A study conducted the same year by Metropolis Healthcare, a global chain of pathology laboratories, claimed that over 18% of women in India had polycystic ovarian syndrome.
But what are PCOD and PCOS?
Dr Lakhbir Dhaliwal, former head of obstetrics and gynaecology department of PGIMER, Chandigarh, says PCOD starts with polycystic ovaries (ovaries release a lot of immature or partially-mature eggs which eventually turn into cysts) and leads to irregular periods and excessive hair growth. About 60 to 70% of women with PCOS even gain weight.
The ovaries become enlarged and secrete large amounts of androgens that can wreak havoc on a woman’s fertility and her body. But the severity of these symptoms can be managed with lifestyle changes and certain hormonal pills, she suggests.
PCOS, on the other hand, is a metabolic syndrome—says Dr Dhaliwal. In addition to polycystic ovaries, women with PCOS have higher glucose levels and insulin intolerance and are prone to develop hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, diabetes, and coronary artery disease in the long run.
The treatment depends on the age of the patient. Dr Dhaliwal says, “For adolescent and young girls, the aim is to ensure regular menstrual cycles to avoid other health complications such as unopposed oestrogen levels. We suggest physical activity and hormonal pills to regularise their menstrual cycles and reduce excessive hair growth.”
“Likewise, for adult women who want to conceive, we suggest ovulation-induction drugs. Even during pregnancy, these women are prone to gestational diabetes, which needs to be taken care of,” she says, adding that the treatment for women in their perimenopausal phase is again different.
So how can you manage PCOS and PCOD at home during the lockdown?
Dr Dhaliwal says diet management is very important. Since junk food is not easily available due to the lockdown, she suggests women should use the lockdown as an opportunity to lose weight by shunning high-calorie foods and going for oats, dalia, and poha.
Dr Alka Sehgal, professor and head of obstetrics and gynaecology department, Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, says the lockdown can help women adopt diets that include more cellulose, vitamins, and minerals. She suggests menstrual cycles can be regularised with the help of regular exercise and hormonal pills (upon your doctor’s advice, of course)—however, managing stress is crucial.
Dr Sehgal also says that investing your time in doing things that you enjoy can relieve stress. Yoga and breathing exercises can help too.
Dr Priti Arun, consultant psychiatrist at Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), says emotional well-being is important. She advises women to stick to a particular routine and use the extra time to work out.
She says creating awareness about mental and emotional health is necessary to help women cope with mood swings.
PCOD and PCOS may enter your life as shockers, but with a little lifestyle change and discipline, you can teach yourself to live with it. Cheers to happy and healthy living!