Black History Month: The PCOS issue

Emilie's picture

There seems to be conflicting opinions on whether or not Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is actually more common in Black women or not. I have seen some reference that it may be 8% in African-American women vs 4.8% in Caucasian women, but I have also read that there is no difference. Regardless of whether it is more prevalent or not, symptoms do manifest differently, so I feel it is worth mentioning.

If you haven’t already read it, here is the rest of the Black history month series:
#1 B.H.M: The infertility issue

#2. B.H.M: The period pain issue (fibroids and more)

#4 B.H.M: The supplement issue


What is PCOS?: PCOS is usually diagnosed when a women has 2 of the following 3 signs:

  • Irregular, or no menstruation (caused by a failure to ovulate regularly, or to ovulate at all)
  • Excessive male hormones, which can lead to increased male pattern hair growth on the body (hirsutism), male pattern hair loss on the head, and acne.
  • Polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound
  • PCOS is also connected to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, stubborn or increased abdominal weight gain, chronic inflammation, long term birth control pill use, and environmental factors like diet and hormone disrupting products. 

So how PCOS differs for Black women?:

  • There is an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease in Black women with PCOS. Symptoms include, an increase amount of abdominal fat, increased blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. These symptoms increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart attacks.
  • There is a higher likelihood of developing male pattern hair growth. 
  • There are lower success rates for IVF (I have read this referencing African-American women, but am having difficulty finding the Canadian data.) 

What you can do:

1. Diet: Adopt a low glycemic diet. Pack your diet full of green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, fish and decrease your starches, soy, dairy, processed foods and sugars. Here is more on my top foods to eat and avoid.
And a link to the Acubalance fertility diet section on PCOS

2. Exercise. Get your heartrate up for 30 minutes 6 days a week. Try to incorporate both carido and large muscle strength training (think squats, lunges, planks and push ups). It may seem like a lot, but adding exercise can be the key to ovulating regularly.

3. Supplements:

  • Vit D: Vitamin D is key for improving fertility in PCOS patients. It improves insulin resistance and reduces androgen levels, and adequate levels have been associated with better pregnancy outcomes.
  • NAC: N-acetyl Cysteine reduces insulin levels and increases insulin sensitivity. It is also great at reducing inflammation.

 4. Acupuncture: In studies, acupuncture has shown to be able to regulate ovulation, reduce BMI and improve hip to waist ratios in overweight women with PCOS. 

infertility PCOS black history month