July 15, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Science And Technology

Polycystic ovary syndrome and daily life: lessons from the pandemic

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a multifaceted condition that affects approximately one in ten people who menstruate. Known for its complex impact on reproductive, metabolic and mental health, the daily experiences of those living with PCOS remain unexplored. A recent study led by Professor Jerilynn Prior and her team, including master's candidate Kaitlin Nelson, Dr. Sonia Shirin, and Dharani Kalidasan of the University of British Columbia, sought to close this knowledge gap by examining the menstrual cycle and experiences of women's daily lives. with polycystic ovary syndrome during the early stages of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Their findings were published in PLOS ONE.

Professor Prior and her colleagues at the Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR) initiated the Menstruation and Ovulation Study 2 (MOS2) with a number of scientific objectives including investigating the daily experiences of women with PCOS. The study included eight women with physician-diagnosed PCOS, matched with 24 age- and BMI-matched controls. The participants, all from Metro Vancouver, kept daily entries in the Menstrual Cycle Diary© and recorded a variety of physical and emotional experiences, such as menstrual flow, cramps, breast tenderness, feelings of energy and self-esteem, and negative moods.

Contrary to initial hypotheses that women with PCOS would not ovulate and would have longer cycles, the study found no significant differences in menstrual cycle length or luteal phase length between the PCOS and control groups. Professor Prior said: “We expected to see more menstrual irregularities and shorter luteal phases in women with PCOS, but surprisingly, cycle characteristics were quite similar to controls.” This unexpected finding suggests that regular cycles months apart in women with PCOS may be more common than previously thought, especially when women are in their 30s and 40s.

The study also explored the emotional and psychological impacts of PCOS. Although it was hypothesized that women with PCOS would experience lower self-esteem and more negative moods, the results did not support these assumptions. Both groups reported similar levels of frustration, depression and anxiety. However, women with PCOS reported significantly higher levels of “external stress.” Kaitlin Nelson commented: “The increased external stress observed in women with PCOS could be indicative of the broader health and social challenges these people face, exacerbated during the pandemic.”

One of the strengths of the study was the use of validated tools such as Quantitative Basal Temperature© (QBT©) method to evaluate ovulation, and the complete Menstrual Cycle Diary©. Daily entries minimized recall bias. This rigorous approach provided detailed information about the daily lives of women with PCOS and revealed that most of their experiences during the pandemic were not significantly different from those of the control group in most aspects.

The researchers also highlighted the broader implications of their findings. “Understanding the everyday experiences of women with PCOS is crucial to developing effective interventions and support systems,” Professor Prior said. Insights from this study could inform healthcare providers and policymakers, emphasizing the need for personalized resources and support for people with PCOS.

In conclusion, the MOS2 study offers valuable insights into the menstrual and daily experiences of women with PCOS, challenging some common assumptions about the condition. It underlines the importance of considering individual variability and the potential for greater menstrual regularity in midlife. The findings paved the way for future research that explores the diverse experiences of women with PCOS and develop strategies that improve their quality of life.

Magazine reference

Nelson, K., Shirin, S., Kalidasan, D., & Prior, J.C. (2023). Experiences of women living with polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot case-control, single-cycle and daily menstrual cycle study during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. PLUS ONE. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0296377

About the authors

Dr. Jerilynn Prior, 2019 Michael Smith, a British Columbia physician-scientist, is a professor of endocrinology at UBC with an H-index of 74. She is the founder (in 2002) and scientific director of the Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR) at the UBC. Dr. Prior's more than 45-year academic career prospectively investigates ovulation and progesterone within women's menstrual cycles, during adolescence and perimenopause, and progesterone that stimulates bone formation and prevents osteoporosis. CeMCOR is the world's first and only pioneering research center focused on ovulation. Your website (www.cemcor.ubc.ca) gets approximately 3,000 page views per day in >200 countries and provides actionable, science-based discoveries on cramps, heavy flow, PCOS, and perimenopausal night sweats. Dr. Prior and CeMCOR are innovators in unique reproductive physiology concepts and therapeutic information. April 2024

Kaitlin Nelson is pursuing a Master of Science in the Experimental Medicine program at the University of British Columbia, where she works under the direction of endocrinology expert Dr. Jerilynn Prior. Her research focuses on evaluating health-related quality of life changes in those living with androgenic polycystic ovary syndrome after a 6-month treatment with cyclic progesterone and spironolactone. In addition to her academic activities, Kaitlin contributes her time and expertise to the Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research Center, focusing on knowledge translation, and to the Cedar Cottage Community Garden, where she assists in childbirth and grant writing. As she advances in her studies and volunteer work, Kaitlin is committed to deepening our understanding of PCOS and improving healthcare for women through innovative research and active community involvement. https://kaitlinnelson.ca/ kaitlin.nelson@ubc.ca

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