Parents play a critical role in managing PCOS in an affected daughter. Chances are they have no idea what to look for and may simply ignore period problems as something that will settle down or ‘bad periods’. The probability that a father will even be consulted is practically zero, in India, except perhaps if he is a doctor and keeps his eyes open.
Even mothers may be slow to react simply because they themselves may have gone through the same difficult time and they were also told to ‘stay at home & bear with it’.
It is now a known fact that mothers and, yes, even fathers, can pass on PCOS to daughters.
As parents, you need to be sensitive to your daughters’ behaviour as much as her physical experience. A healthy lifestyle is something you need to inculcate in them and set an example. This doesn’t mean forbidding certain types of eatables but simply teaching them to maintain a healthy balance.
Observe for mood swings. PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalance and this will impact behaviour strongly. Unusual weight gain, excessive body hair, especially male pattern hair on the face chest, armpits are sure telltale signs. Persistent acne, thinning of scalp hair are also signs to watch for.
Mothers should monitor abnormalities in the monthly cycles and consult a gynecologist early if they find an abnormal pattern.
It’s common to put down your daughters’ mood swings to teenage transition. Keep in mind that if she has PCOS she has the additional burden of hormonal imbalance in addition to the peer pressures she will be experiencing. A supportive family can do wonders and the silver lining is the strong bonds this can create.
As parents, we must address any feelings of shame, guilt, rage, or sadness your daughter may be experiencing as a result of her trauma. While there is definite evidence that it can be passed down the generations, it doesn’t mean that you are responsible for it.
None of us is genetically perfect. In a few cases, this imperfection manifests more visibly. Not only in the form of appearance issues but moodiness, irritability. This being a part & parcel of living with PCOS, should be accepted and professionally addressed.
First of all, do not get into denial mode. That won’t help at all.
Accept that your daughter isn’t the perfect child that you wanted. Far from it. But your response will determine how she weathers the PCOS storms over the years. Channelize your frustration, guilt and anger in figuring out the best way to deal with the different manifestations of the problem. Easier said than done.
- Accept that PCOS isn’t going to go away
- Connect with a doctor who has had experience in dealing with such cases. More importantly, one who is qualified to do so? Do not put your trust blindly in the family doctor, who may simply tell you what you wish to hear.
- Even a good doctor alone will not be enough. Ideally enroll in a clinic that has an all under one roof facility for dealing with PCOS including a nutritionist, Physiotherapist, lifestyle counselor and stress therapist. If they work in a coordinated manner as a team, this will really go a long way in helping your daughter to keep PCOS on a tight leash. Remember, the medicine will work only as long as the other facets of PCOS management are also being expertly managed, namely – nutrition, weight control, management of emotional issues.
- Keep in mind that PCOS patients can get Diabetes, are at a much higher risk of heart disease & endometrial cancers. They may have to combat infertility. More the reason you need to get professional help at the earliest and keep on monitoring lifelong.
- Keep in mind that she may not be the only one in the family with a major health problem. Her sisters may not be showing symptoms of PCOS, but maybe at a higher risk. Even the men in the family run a higher risk of getting ailments like diabetes, thyroid disorders.
- Address the issues openly and supportively. Anger, frustration, and depression will not help. You, as a parent, need to appear in control. You need to give your daughter the confidence that she is not alone in this fight to counter her risks and build a lifestyle that is healthy. Even if it means changing your eating habits, taking time out of a busy schedule to go on walks or bike rides with your daughter. If you can’t do it, find someone who can and remain as involved as you can.
- Teach her to cook healthy, even if you yourself have to unlearn what your mother has passed on! Take classes to learn how to cook simple, healthy yet delicious, wholesome meals.
- Introduce her to Yoga, Pranayam and meditation. There are many meaningful courses in India that teach Life & Stress management in a way that is acceptable to youngsters. Attend these together.
- Visit the clinic with her. Be prepared with your specific questions for the entire team – the doctor, nutritionist, Physio, lifestyle and stress counsellor. Encourage her to become a part of a group on social media, that deals with PCOS and whose members share their successes and failures openly.
- Try to sweep away the fact of PCOS under the carpet
- Make her feel like a burden or someone to be ashamed of
- Let your emotions go out of control in front of her
Each of us is dealt a different set of cards by life. PCOS isn’t worse than a lot of problems that people have to deal with. Stay together as a family, support each other and life can be normal again.