Tania Villata
Tania Villata and her first baby. Image Credit: Supplied

Gulf News reader Tania Villata is currently pregnant with her second child. The Costa Rican, who spent a year and a half in Dubai, is chuffed; one, because she had always wanted to be a mum. “I knew I wanted to be a mum since I was five years old,” she tells Gulf News in an interview. Second, because when she was 13 years old, she found out she had polycystic ovary syndrome, which can have a negative impact on reproductive health.

Villata, now 27, recalls her first menses at 13. It was brief. When it ended, she says, “It didn’t come back.

“It was six months or a year after that, my mum took me to a gynaecologist and they were able to tell through a scan that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – the way you see this in a scan is that you see a lot of cysts on the ovaries. Then, they did blood tests to confirm.”

What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. The name polycystic ovary syndrome describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries.
Source: John Hopkins Medicine, US

As someone who had looked forward to having kids one day, Villata was terrified when her doctors told her she needed to make conscious, healthy lifestyle decisions to ensure a fit life. “It caused a lot of anxiety during my teenage years,” she says.

They also put her on hormonal medication that would once a month induce bleeding. ”So he put me on those so I would have a period every month even though it was forced. He said that would be good for the body because then it would not accumulate over the years,” she explains.

She stayed on the path, crafting menus that would suit her condition. “Eating healthy has been more important to me than if I did not have PCOS, because they say you must be extra careful … PCOS girls have to be more careful with lactose, all of the extra hormone-filled products like milk, cheese, soy – I try to avoid or eat in very small amounts. Obviously, I eat my cheese pizza but it’s not a common part of my diet. I try to eat very healthy, avoid sugar.”

Then, 10 years on, when she got married, she began to revisit the idea of children. “I had been on the pill for so long, because that was the way the doctor had told me to control it and because we weren’t ready to have kids yet, so when I stopped eating it, a lot of symptoms started to appear including ‘no period at all’. So for two years I had no periods, acne and excessive facial hair – those are just common symptoms. I took fertility drugs which did not work.”

What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Irregular periods
Abnormal hair growth
Darkening of the skin
Skin tags
Thinning hair
Source: Cleveland Clinic

What she said helped her was a supplement named Inositol. This is a sugar made in the body and found in foods, says WebMD, adding that the supplement has anecdotal backing but ‘no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses’.

What are Inositols?
Dr Nazura Siddiqi, Specialist - Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bareen International Hospital - MBZ City, says: “Inositols are kind of sugars which help to improve this insulin resistance. These can be found in healthy foods like nuts, grains and beans. Of the nine forms of inositols, Myoinositol (MI) and D-chiro-inositols (DCI) have the biggest impact on PCOS. Many studies are now showing that a combination of MI and DCI are best for reducing insulin resistance and restarting ovulation and more effective than metformin.”
Dr Sabitha US, Specialist Obstetrics and Gynecology at Aster Hospital Mankhool, adds: "Certain clinical studies suggest that daily doses of inositol and folic acid may help in reducing the levels of triglycerides in the blood, improving insulin sensitivity and menstrual cycle, and promoting ovulation."

Two months on this programme, Villata found herself pregnant.

She says PCOS isn’t something she’s reversed, but she has learned to manage it. “After I gave birth, it was a really healthy birth and pregnancy but afterwards when I went for the check-up, they told me I still had PCOS, the same ultrasound look. I still didn’t get regular periods.”

Fourteen years after her PCOS diagnosis, Villata is expecting her second child. And she couldn’t be more pleased.

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