PCOS & me

The day I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) I left the doctors not really knowing how I was feeling. I had heard of PCOS but like many people, including medical professionals, I didn’t actually know what that meant.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know what Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (“PCOS”) is, it is a condition in women characterised by irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, infertility and excess hair growth. PCOS is a disorder of chronically abnormal ovarian function and hyperandrogenism (abnormally elevated androgen levels). It affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age.

 

I went into see my doctor that day as I had chosen to come off the contraceptive pill 6 months previous. In the time after stopping the pill I had a major hormone shift in my body; my hair started to thin, my skin became oily, I started having breakouts and my periods had completely stopped after about 3 months. I’m not going to lie, the acne was the biggest breaking point for me, it made me feel very self-conscious. At 30 years old I have always had clear skin, just with the odd spot here and there, not even in my teens did I suffer, but this was a whole different story. I knew it was hormonal as my breakouts would appear on the hormonal lines of my face, on my cheek bones and across my jawline. They were deep cystic breakouts, the ones you can’t pop and would become so painful that you wouldn’t be able to put your face down on the pillow. I had been on the pill since I was 16 years old, so my PCOS may have always been laying dormant disguised by the pill.

 

Typically doctors want to first treat the menstrual abnormalities and the way they can do that is through prescribing the contraceptive pill. They view this as quite binary, “the female ovaries aren’t working properly and we have to fix that, so lets give her a pill to take”. They look at the circuit board and only see one circuit, instead of asking the question as to why the menstrual issues exist in the first place. The pill seems to be the go to solution for doctors but unfortunately it is often a very small piece of a much larger puzzle.

 

Another automatic response from a doctor would be to say to you to fix your lifestyle. If you want to fix your PCOS all you have to do is eat right, exercise more, and you’ll be fine, you just have to break the fat cycle. They don’t seem to recognise that PCOS causes insulin resistance, and insulin resistance means it can be incredibly difficult to loose body fat. This is because your body’s blood glucose response is not functioning correctly, so your almost having this type 2 diabetic effect happening.

 

I’ve never had a major issue with my weight, the only thing I would say is that I can put weight on very easily. But I have always eaten clean, so I’ve never found my weight to be an issue.

 

I made the decision that day that I didn’t want to go back on the pill so I chose to go down the nutrition route. I wanted to see if I could re-balance the imbalances in my body, face it all head on and help myself by helping myself. After scrolling through the overwhelming amount of information available online I soon came to realise there was very little factual information that I could rely on to help me make the necessary changes to my diet. It wasn’t easy deciding which path to go down, there is no one set diet for PCOS.

 

I am now gluten free and dairy free, well predominately dairy free anyway, I don’t have any milk, cream, or yogurt, but I do allow myself cheese on the odd occasion. It’s been 8 months now and I have definitely noticed the difference. I used to wake up every morning bloated and uncomfortable, constantly complaining of stomach aches and cramping. Since changing my diet I feel so much better in myself with much fewer stomach issues, and as a bonus I lost weight in those problem areas we all struggle with. Do your own research though (there are some useful articles online; you just have to dig for them) & see what is best for you. Of course your doctor might make some suggestions for you as well, if you have a good one.

 

My next battle will be the prospect of being infertile. When I was 24 I had a miscarriage, I didn’t know I was pregnant nor was it planned but nonetheless it was a pretty tough time for me. I have aways felt I wouldn’t be able to have children, years of being on the pill and plenty times of forgetting said pill, I felt that there were ample opportunities where it could have happened but didn’t. And then I had the miscarriage, in a strange way it was sort of a relief, it happened, it can happen, maybe I was wrong; maybe one day when its right I will be able to have children. When I was diagnosed I realised that the PCOS was most likely the cause of the miscarriage. It was a pretty large slap in the face. I am now just about to turn 31 and after speaking with my doctor I know the chances of me being able to have children are low. I’m still trying to come to terms with that, but hey, you never know.

 

If I could give you any advice I would tell you to become part of a community of other women who have PCOS. Also do your own research, see what works for you, because everyone is different. What works for one doesn’t mean it’ll work for the other. PCOS is not a death sentence. It will be difficult to deal with, so make sure you have a support system around you, it’ll make so much difference.

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