Congrats, Toxic Air is Now Gifting Girls PCOS Right From the Womb

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – either you have it or you have definitely heard about it.

From diets to avoid to exercises to try out, women and their doctors are trying to crack the solutions to the disorder that has remained largely undiagnosed and unmanaged.

Dr Ranjana Sharma, a gynecologist at Apollo Hospitals speaks to FIT about how much of the disorder remains a mystery, “We largely do not know the causes of PCOS, and it’s becoming alarmingly common in younger girls.”

What we do know is that it is a lifestyle, metabolic disorder impacted by genetic and environmental factors.

This usually means what you eat and how you live your life, but a new study has found that it could also mean PCOS is affected by your literal environment, especially if it is air pollution.

Also Read: What Is Air Pollution Doing to Our Brains?

Toxins in the Air We Breathe = Toxins in Our System

According to the study in journal Human Reproduction, breathing toxic air among teenage girls is linked with slightly increased chances of menstrual irregularity and a longer time to achieve regularity.

"While air pollution exposures have been linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, this study suggests there may be other systems, such as the reproductive endocrine system, that are affected as well," said Dr Shruthi Mahalingaiah, from the Boston University School of Medicine to PTI.

So the particulate matter in air pollution can have an adverse impact on our hormonal regulation.

Dr Sharma told us,

"“The toxins and chemicals in the air are poisonous to our cells, We see this in our cardiovascular system so it makes sense that this disrupts other systems in our body like our endocrine system. Our ovarian cycle needs to be in perfect balance but these factors can disrupt that to cause PCOS”"

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) found in the environment are being researched to etch out the links to PCOS.

According to period and fertility tracker app and website Clue, prenatal or development exposure to certain compounds in chemicals, products, cigarettes and air pollution may predispose the baby in the womb to PCOS.

Dr Sharma agrees, saying,

"“Exposure inside the womb is a potential contributing factor, and air pollution can infect the mother and the toxins from it can adversely impact her reproductive system too.”"

Also Read: Infertility and Men: Is Air Pollution Shrinking the Sperm?

Obesity, Diabetes, and More: The Domino Effect of PCOS

Despite the general haze around the disorder, experts agree that the main issue with PCOS is insulin resistance and inflammation.

Insulin resistance is a tricky beast, causing women to put on weight as they need more insulin to absorb the energy-giving glucose in our bloodstream. However, more weight worsens insulin resistance and round the cycle we go.

Dr Sharma adds that this could cause other complications, with irregular menstruation and menstrual problems being just one. “With obesity, there are increased risks of hypertension, diabetes, higher blood pressure, and more lifestyle diseases. Plus, another one of the symptoms of PCOS is infertility as well.”

Toxins and chemicals in the air being bad for us is not new information, but the extent to which air pollution can seep in and destroy our body systems is both alarming and deeply frightening.

This could mean that more kids are born with PCOS and more women will have problems in their reproductive systems if we do not take serious action to control air pollution.

Till then, Dr Sharma advises that since we know a few potential causes of PCOS, we arm ourselves and take the right precautions, “If you can control the level of exposure you are getting, do so. Protect yourself when you are outside.”

Also Read: Struggling with PCOS and the Ideal of Womanhood 

(FIT is launching its #PollutionKaSolution campaign. Join us by becoming an anti-air pollution warrior. Send in your questions, your stories of how to tackle air pollution and your ideas to FIT@thequint.com)

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