Life with PCOS
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a health condition that affects about 10 million women in the world.
What causes PCOS?
The exact cause is unknown, but it is considered a hormonal problem.
Genetics and environmental factors are believed to be involved in the development of PCOS. It is a leading cause of female infertility and is responsible for a number of symptoms that can affect the body physically and emotionally.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Symptoms of PCOS may begin shortly after puberty, but can also develop during the later teen years and early adulthood. Because symptoms may be attributed to other causes or go unnoticed, PCOS may go undiagnosed for some time. Women with PCOS typically have irregular or missed periods as a result of not ovulating. Although some women may develop cysts on their ovaries, many women do not.
Other symptoms include:
Weight gain. About half of women with PCOS will have weight gain and obesity that is difficult to manage.
Fatigue. Many women with PCOS report increased fatigue and low energy. Related issues such as poor sleep may contribute to the feeling of fatigue.
Unwanted hair growth (also known as hirsutism). Areas affected by excess hair growth may include the face, arms, back, chest, thumbs, toes, and abdomen. Hirsutism related to PCOS is due to hormonal changes in androgens.
Thinning hair on the head. Hair loss related to PCOS may increase in middle age.
Infertility. PCOS is a leading cause of female infertility. However, not every woman with PCOS is the same. Although some women may need the assistance of fertility treatments, others are able to conceive naturally.
Acne. Hormonal changes related to androgens can lead to acne problems. Other skin changes such as the development of skin tags and darkened patches of skin are also related to PCOS.
Mood changes. Having PCOS can increase the likelihood of mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
Pelvic pain. Pelvic pain may occur with periods, along with heavy bleeding. It may also occur when a woman isn’t bleeding.
Headaches. Hormonal changes prompt headaches.
Sleep problems. Women with PCOS often report problems such as insomnia or poor sleep. There are many factors that can affect sleep, but PCOS has been linked to a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, a person will stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep.
How did I find out I have PCOS?
My whole health journey began when I started getting really bad acne on my chin, which I now know is called hormonal acne. I would get these deep painful cysts that wouldn’t go away. I started doing a ton of research to help my skin and I kept coming across PCOS. At the time, I had no idea what PCOS was. I even googled it a few times, and as soon as I saw “Some women may grow a beard” I was like oh hell no, I don’t have this & I’d stop reading. I knew something was off with my body, I just didn’t know what.
I was tired, frustrated and really just wanted to feel better. I decided to get a hormone test done through ZRT laboratories, a trusted online source. I picked out the basic panel, which tested estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA.
When I got my test results back, my stomach dropped. One part of the test mentioned how I had high testosterone and a common cause is PCOS. I was in shock, but also not in shock. I think deep down I had a feeling I had it, but honestly the whole beard thing was throwing me off. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and brought her the test results.
I’ll never forget my appointment with dr. birth control.. I mean my gynecologist. She went through my hormone test and evaluated my symptoms and decided she wanted to do further testing which included a hormone blood panel and a sonogram. Eager to figure out what was wrong, I agreed.
Just when I thought the appointment was coming to an end, she started discussing birth control and all of the risks I was at if I had PCOS. The next 30 minutes became a blur. All I remember hearing was “birth control, birth control, birth control.” She began preaching birth control and how I needed it to prevent cysts from forming if I did have PCOS. After hearing the words birth control for a solid 15 minutes, and shutting her down, she then began to go into all of the health risks of PCOS. The next 15 minutes were her ranting about how I was at risk for diabetes, infertility and etc.
My head began to pound and I just wanted to go home. I didn’t need to hear all of the health risks and treatment options of something that I wasn’t even diagnosed with. I was literally nauseous listening to her. If we had to play a drinking game, and take a shot every time she said birth control, we’d be TURNT. At that point, I had to call it a day because all I got from that appointment was a lecture on birth control, and a script for a sonogram and blood work.
The Final Diagnosis
I went for my sonogram and got my blood work done as per Dr. Birth Controls requests. For some strange reason, the place where I get my sonogram done gives you a copy of your sonogram video. My dad being my dad, watched the sonogram video to see if he saw anything. He ended up seeing the “string of pearls” which are a tiny string of cysts on your ovaries. He now refers to himself as Dr. Paul. I knew that there were several factors in determining whether or not you have PCOS, so I still remained hopeful, and awaited a call from Dr. Birth Control on my results.
I was sitting at work one day and got a call from Dr. Birth Control. She told me that my blood work and sonogram indicates that I have PCOS and she was officially diagnosing me. Although I saw it coming, my heart was still racing. She spoke to me about all the treatment options, which include Metformin and guess what? Birth control!
She discussed how birth control was necessary to control my hormones and prevent cysts from forming. She then went on another birth control tangent and started saying “I’m not saying you can never have kids, but right now you would not be able to.” That’s when I drew the line. I was 22 and did not give a damn about getting pregnant. I was like woah, hold up Dr. Birth Control, lets not talk about kids, lets fix this face, aka my chin breakouts. The call ended with her suggesting that I book an appointment with an Endocrinologist. I thanked her for her time and suggestions and went on with my day, which was me sitting at my desk staring blankly out the window wondering if I was making the right decision.
Conventional Treatment Options
One option is a drug called Metformin, which is used in patients with high blood sugar and can help lower insulin levels, elevated blood glucose levels, and androgen levels. My blood work indicated that I did not have high blood sugar or insulin, which made Metformin an unfit treatment option for me.
You already know the second option, birth control. Birth control is used to regulate periods, improve excess hair growth and acne by lowering androgen levels, and protect the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) against abnormal cell growth.
What treatment options did I choose?
If you’re unfamiliar with PCOS and the health and wellness field, then I know what you’re probably thinking, “Why won’t this stubborn betch just take the birth control and shut up.” You’re not wrong for thinking that. I took birth control from the age of 18-22. I started it because I was getting my period twice a month, and ended it because I was determined to get to the root cause of my hormone imbalance.
I chose not to continue birth control because I wasn’t interested in masking my symptoms for a period of time, only to have to deal with them again. I was interested in facing PCOS head on, and eliminating my symptoms for good.
I researched PCOS and learned about more natural, holistic treatment options that involved changing your diet, taking supplements, and taking care of your body.
I became a frequent follower of Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and hormone expert, also known as Flo Living. I highly recommend her articles: https://www.floliving.com/
My Treatment Plan:
I took all of the research and knowledge that I recently gained and created a treatment plan for myself. I changed my diet and started a new supplement routine aimed to help alleviate my symptoms and reverse PCOS. Dr. Birth Control told me that there is no cure for PCOS and that I’ll have it forever. I already knew that you cannot cure PCOS, but you can reverse it and become symptom free. That was my mission. I didn’t care what Dr. Birth Control had to say, I was on a mission and I was determined.
Diet changes: I eliminated sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners, dairy, alcohol and processed foods which are inflammatory and worsen PCOS symptoms.
How did this change my life?
This diagnosis changed my life because it uncovered a whole list of health problems that I had been dealing with majority of my life. After the diagnosis, I looked for a alternative medicine doctor in my area and began seeing him. If I didn’t listen to research and what was going on with my skin, I would never be where I am today. I would most likely still be sippin’ on coke and rum, sleeping for 12-14 hours a night, and feeling like crap.
This was definitely one of the toughest periods of my life and it took a toll on me physically and emotionally. If I had to go back and do it all over again, the only advice I would give myself is to believe in myself. I’m not going to lie and say that I believed my way was the best way, and that I didn’t doubt myself. I was determined, but I did doubt myself. Some days I wondered if I made the right decision as far as treatment options. I wondered if I should have listened to Dr. Birth Control.
Where am I today?
Today I no longer wake up with painful cystic acne, I get regular periods, I have more energy and overall I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for Dr. Birth Control for showing me what kind of doctor I don’t want to see, and I’m grateful for all of the books and blogs that were available to me along the way. It’s been one year since I was diagnosed with PCOS, and I am beyond proud of the treatment options I chose. The more people I talk to in the health and wellness field, the more I learn that there are doctors out there that support, and even encourage the treatment options that I chose.