I had finally decided not to put it off any longer, time to book an appointment with a gynaecologist. I had recently found that sex had been a bit painful for me and I’d had enough. I rocked up not really knowing what to expect but after being greeted by a friendly nurse and asked a couple of questions I went in for a quick ultrasound.
That’s when the gynaecologist turned to me and said, “I have an answer for you, you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).”
Oh… what’s that? I think I’d heard of it before, but had no clue what it was. If you’re in the same boat or just want to learn something new, here’s the lowdown on PCOS.
What is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
Essentially, people with PCOS have lots of small cysts on their ovaries. The actual cysts themselves aren’t dangerous but can cause hormone imbalances. Most people’s ovaries produce tiny amounts of androgens (male sex hormones). But, for people with PCOS the ovaries produce more androgens which can cause a range of things like acne, extra facial/body hair and may cease ovulation (you may get irregular periods). PCOS has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes and infertility.
What causes it?
To be honest, no one is 100% sure what causes PCOS but there does seem to be a genetic factor. So if someone in your family has PCOS, diabetes or irregular periods you may be more likely to have it.
What might PCOS look like?
You can have some or all of the symptoms which include:
- Gaining weight or difficulty losing weight
- Irregular periods
- Extra hair on body/face e.g. back or chest
- Hair on the scalp may thin
- Difficulty falling pregnant
- Mood disorders (e.g. depression)
How do you find out you have it?
This varies for everyone. Like I said, I went into the gynaecologist for something else and when they did an ultrasound we just happened to find them. Going to a gynaecologist was actually a great experience, my doctor was really positive, chatty and it didn’t feel awkward at all! However you can just go to a GP as well, they may refer you on, but it’s a good place to start.
They might ask you some questions about your health in general, what symptoms you have, and what your periods are like. They might also check your body mass index (BMI) do a physical and check your blood pressure. For me, they also did a quick blood test to check for insulin levels and any thyroid problems. Whilst it might sound like a lot, the whole process was actually very easy and everyone was super friendly.
How can I manage it?
The main ways to treat PCOS are:
- Exercise! It doesn’t have to be super intense, it can just be adding an extra walk into your day, or dancing around the house to your favourite songs.
- Eating healthily e.g. lots of fruit, vegies, nuts etc.
- Some (but not all) can benefit from losing weight.
- Quit smoking
- The contraceptive pill can also help reduce symptoms.
Most importantly, check with your doctor, they can help you to develop a treatment plan that works for you and your lifestyle.
If you do find out you have PCOS it’s ok, it might be a bit of a shock (it certainly was to me!) but it’s not the end of the world. I’ve found what’s helped me the most is to talk to other people who have PCOS and we’re everywhere about one in 10 people with ovaries have it.
Secondly, the ‘symptoms’ I listed earlier may not be bad at all, you might feel pretty cute being a little chubby or perhaps you dig how facial hair looks on you. Either way your body is unique and beautiful just the way it is.