The lockdown period that imposed indoor stay could have led to binge eating, missing medication, weight gain and lifestyle changes due to lack of exercise, all leading to hormonal changes, said Dr Vidya V Bhat, laparoscopic surgeon and fertility specialist and medical director of RadhaKrishna Multispeciality Hospital. According to her, the worst affected would be the women with PCOS, a common disease of the endocrine gland. Most studies in India report its prevalence anywhere from 9% to 36%.
During Covid times, many have gained weight due to lack of exercise following long hours in front of TV or computers, said Dr Bhat. “This has affected women battling PCOS, who were on infertility treatment and couldn’t visit doctors during the lockdown,” she added.
According to her, thorough online consultations were done for many patients but that was not very helpful. “PCOS needs to be treated with the help of proper scans and this cannot be done through online consultations. We cannot even gauge the weight gain in patients as they may not have weighing machines at home,” said Dr Bhat.
She recalls a woman in her early 30s, who was married for two years, diagnosed with PCOS and planning for a child for a year. “She was on infertility treatment but missed it due to the lockdown. She was brought to hospital recently in severe distress, breathlessness, and in an anaemic state. She had missed her periods for four months and suddenly had heavy menstrual bleeding. Her haemoglobin level was 5 g/dl against the normal 12 g/dl,” said Dr Bhat. The patient had to be admitted and treated for anaemia.
Dr Shashikala Ksheerasagar, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Vikram Hospital, said during the pandemic any women have experienced anovulation where a woman does not ovulate and periods may become irregular or absent. “Women without PCOS have also suffered anovulation, largely due to stress,” said Dr Shashikala.
According to Dr Hema Divakar, medical director of Divakars Specialty Hospital and policy advisor to the Union health ministry, said stress during lockdown has led to menstrual disturbances among many women, irrespective of PCOS status.