PCOS Awareness Month – My Health & Fertility Resource
September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month so today I’m sharing a little bit about my own experience living with this diagnosis, how it has affected my life and some resources I’ve used to cope with my reproductive/fertility challenges.
For those of you who are not familiar with PCOS, it’s a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgen (sex hormones that should be higher in men and lower in women) which can lead to numerous small cysts that form in the ovaries. In some other cases, some women don’t make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate causing a hormone imbalance, problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle and other PCOS symptoms. Some women with PCOS may not not have ovarian cysts, but they may still have other symptoms. Also, PCOS is hereditary because it’s common for sisters or mothers and daughters to have it.
Some signs and symptoms of PCOS include
1. Missed periods, irregular periods, heavy or very light periods
2. Ovaries that are large or have many cysts
3. Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism)
4. Weight gain, especially around the abdomen or obesity which can also increase insulin levels in the body and make PCOS symptoms worse.
5. Acne or oily skin
6. Male-pattern baldness, hair loss, thinning of hair (alopecia). It’s also Alopecia Awareness Month to see related post.
8. Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits (skin tags)
9. Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, under the armpits or breasts
10. Insulin resistance because the body can’t use insulin well so insulin levels build up and may cause higher androgen levels.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you should definitely see your healthcare provider (Primary Care Provider or Obstetrician/Gynecologist).
For me, I was diagnosed with PCOS in my late teens/early adulthood while I was in college because I was having abnormal periods/bleeding. My cycle was always irregular which was normal for me (I had them once every 2 months initially), but it became problematic when my cycle became even more spaced out (once every 2-4 months), then I started having heavier bleeds, periods lasting 7-14 days and my menstrual cycle would restart only after a 2 weeks break. So as you can imagine, this was now affecting my daily activities and quality of life so I went to see my OB/GYN who then diagnosed me with PCOS after doing Labs and a Pelvic Ultrasound. At that time though, she said that I didn’t have the physical appearance that is synonymous with PCOS, but my ovaries and menstrual cycle told a different story. By my mid 20s I started gaining more weight, had to deal with terrible acne, I started loosing my hair and at the age of 27 I was diagnosed with infertility.
I was initially started on Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCP) to regulate my menstrual cycle and honestly, it made life easier and better but I had to deal with the body image issues I had which I’ll expand on in a different post. I had to also start making lifestyle changes to better manage my weight, nutritional intake, exercise regimen, skin and hair. Once I got married in 2012 I then got off my OCP to start trying to conceive. Even though there was always the possibility that I may have infertility issues because of PCOS, it was still devastating to finally hear it once we couldn’t get pregnant.
I honestly felt like I was falling apart, my body was betraying me and just going down hill but Michael and I were so determined to achieve our dreams of being parents so after a few months of trying to get pregnant, we went to Shady Grove Fertility (SGF) for support. At that point we were still living in Maryland and SGF had great results as well as reviews, so that’s where we started out fertility treatment about 7 years ago.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from living with PCOS and dealing with Infertility is to give myself grace and just do the best I can to take care of myself because I only have this one body. Our body may not look like we hope or work perfectly as we want it to, but it is still very beautiful and strong just the way it is. Also the best thing you can do in a situation like this is to continue treat your mind, body and soul with love, care and kindness while you find a great fertility specialist and support group to help you. Based on my infertility journey and resources I used to cope, I have created a FERTILITY RESOURCE for other families who may be struggling with a reproductive illness like PCOS, Fibroid, Endometriosis or may be dealing with challenges to conceive, carry and birth a healthy baby (CLICK HERE). I want you to know that my thoughts and prayers continue to be with you and if you need more support and resources, leave a comment below or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Have a blessed day!