Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) needs to be talked about more. It’s a Pretty Crappy Ovary Situation that downright sucks and supposedly affects 1 in 10 women, but I think it could definitely be more considering the symptoms vary so not everyone who has it knows they have it. Warning: I’m about to get real about 11 ways PCOS brings down my vibe as a regular everyday female. I’m not a doctor and this isn’t meant to diagnose anyone, but these are my personal struggles.
Acne doesn’t end when you’re a teen. Most of us can relate to going through the awkward junior days when puberty kicks in and wreaks havoc on what we know about life. Enter funky new odors and facial oils, dotting up our ever-beloved school picture day photos with a pimply hot mess. That pain was supposed to be out the door and around the corner sometime in high school, but for women with PCOS, the perk of aging out of this discomfort is denied. This unfortunate skin curse into adulthood means cleansers, astringents, cover-up, and a good foundation are absolute musts in your beauty stash.
Your fertility could be in question. There are several factors tied to this. One, some women with PCOS can seriously struggle with weight. Being overweight itself can be a barrier to conception. Two, hormones can be imbalanced which affect the natural progression of a typical menstrual cycle. Three, too many follicles lead to ovary overcrowding and no space for one to grow and ovulate, so no egg is being released.
The mood swings can be hell. This goes back to the whole hormone imbalance thing. We all know during our period (and even sometimes around ovulation) that our disposition can be equivalent to a hanger episode. Well, you can thank raging hormones for that. So, what happens when your hormones are always off? Women with PCOS can be more prone to facing total bummers like irritability due to higher testosterone levels or depression due to a vitamin D deficiency.
Your ideal body may not be attainable. This is one of my biggest gripes with the whole condition. Many women with PCOS struggle with insulin resistance which can eventually lead to diabetes if not managed properly. I personally don’t have this problem, but I do struggle with never-ending bloating and packing weight around my abdomen. I am constantly being mistaken for being pregnant due to my “pooch,” which isn’t fun with fertility being a concern. I’m also always on a diet since it’s hard to lose weight and I already eat mostly healthy and exercise. All this leaves me with ongoing body image issues.
Facial hair can be an issue. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only two personal items, I would definitely choose Chapstick and tweezers. It’s basically part of my daily routine to examine my face for upper lip and chin hairs and keep my eyebrows in check. Then there are these random days I use a new bathroom with a super good mirror and lighting which magnify stray hairs I missed clear as day and I’m instantly horrified. It’s massively time-consuming to maintain the upkeep and prevent public embarrassment.
You need to be on the lookout for balding. This is another symptom I don’t have, but it happens. You’d think with the excess facial hair, growth wouldn’t be a problem. But many women struggle with bald spots and receding hairlines. My guess is since these are all typical male issues, that it’s related to the generally higher level of testosterone women with PCOS have.
A period tracker app will be just as confused as you are. Back to the cycle disruptions and ever-whacky hormone situation. I’ve had anywhere from 2+ week-long periods to no period for months on end. Sometimes it’s so bad I have to take pills to start bleeding since not having a menstrual flow at least 4 times a year can put you at risk for more serious problems.
The shame is unbearable. With all these issues going on including, but not limited to, weight loss woes, having male-like facial hair, and not being able to get pregnant naturally, it’s hard to feel a sense of femininity. A lot of girls grow up feeling like it’s a biological calling to reproduce. PCOS can leave you feeling physically undesirable and a societal failure. There goes being able to contribute to the population replacing itself. It can be a real blow to your womanhood, especially when it seems like so many women put so much effort into not getting pregnant because they’re so fertile.
The extra appointments will bog down your schedule. PCOS is a real medical condition. Managing the symptoms can require regular monitoring through pelvic ultrasounds, lab work, and medication management. This could mean visits with your primary doctor, OBGYN, and if you’re trying to conceive, a fertility specialist. This can all be time-consuming, especially if you need to take extra time to find doctors who even have knowledge and experience with this diagnosis.
The side effects of management are utter crap…sometimes literally. Treating PCOS outside of diet and exercise lifestyle changes can involve a regimen of medications and/or supplements. Not only do medications have physical side effects like worsened acne and more weight gain, it can be costly to keep up with everything.
The lack of answers is maddening. Even though this condition affects so many women, there still really isn’t a lot of research about the causes or treatment, which is such a drag. The good news is the conversation is starting, but it can give you an empty feeling to have all these additional nuances affecting your daily life and no promising hope for fully overcoming symptoms. Even with the best effect to treat this, you still have it every day and it can make you wonder, “why me?”
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