This article is sponsored by Nature’s Best for their #NaturesBestPCOS campaign to help raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Have you heard of PCOS? It stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and it’s a condition that causes irregular periods, high levels of male hormones in the body and enlarged ovaries containing lots of fluid-filled sacs. Common side effects of PCOS include fertility issues, weight gain, acne and excess hair/hair loss.
You may not know this but I suffer from PCOS — just like 1 in 10 of you reading are likely to — and I was diagnosed in my teens as I was struggling with heavy, irregular periods. It’s not something I really think about anymore. It’s just who I am. The symptoms are my version of normal and dealing with them has become second nature!
Diagnosis of PCOS
I was sixteen years old when I was diagnosed with PCOS.
I’d just left school and I’d been referred to the gynaecology department for an ultrasound to confirm the presence of fluid-filled sacs on my ovaries. The consultant did the ultrasound herself and was really conscientious and reassuring as I wasn’t very comfortable about having to expose my pubis and, of course, the sensation itself isn’t exactly pleasant as they have to apply quite a lot of pressure with the probe.
I remember her saying things like “textbook” and “classic” but it wasn’t until I returned to my GP that I received my official diagnosis.
My personal PCOS symptoms
I’ve had quite a few symptoms of PCOS across the years that have changed as I’ve grown up.
For example, I had trouble with my periods when I was a teenager and I was prescribed the pill during my early years of secondary school to help control them. I either didn’t have any or when they did make an untimely appearance, they were hideous. I’m talking SO much blood. SO much pain. I was constantly scared that everybody could tell I was on my period or that I’d leak. The boys treated periods as if they were disgusting (jerks!) and I was overly paranoid about that ‘period smell’ as well. Since giving birth to Lily, my periods have been much more regular but often still heavy and painful.
Another symptom, and perhaps the most upsetting, was infertility. It took us six years to successfully conceive Lily and beforehand, I was petrified that we wouldn’t ever be able to have children. Michael promised that our relationship wouldn’t be affected and that we’d find another way but my brain whirred with insecurities about him leaving me for somebody more womanly (yes, I really thought this — don’t shout, I was young OK?) who was able to bear his children.
At the moment, my main symptom is excess hair growth. I struggle with this on my stomach and on the sides of my face. The hairs on my stomach I shave off when I shave everywhere else and, stupidly I suppose, I also shave the hair on the side of my face religiously on a daily basis.
On the flip side, the hair from my head is coming away in small clumps. I’ve had this before, in particular when I was postpartum as most people do, but it’s not nice especially now Lily is three years old and it’s not getting any better on a consistent basis.
I’ve also been struggling with the development of acne across my upper body since the beginning of the year together with a particularly nasty bout of eczema under my arms. Despite being prescribed various creams and too many courses of antibiotics to count, it just keeps coming back. I don’t know what to do to make it better and it’s really painful. When I was younger, I had persistent acne on my face but I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with clearer skin these days!
Mood swings or low mood, headaches and exhaustion can be pretty standard as well.
Managing my PCOS
I’ll fully admit that I’m not very good at looking after myself and I don’t take the steps that I should to properly manage my condition. I also suffer from anxiety fuelled by obsessive compulsive disorder and hypothyroidism so I’ve got a lot on my plate to be thinking about when it comes to my health.
I’ve been overweight since my teens as I started binge eating to combat severe bullying issues at school and I know that reducing my BMI will be the most effective way to see some major improvements in my symptoms. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds! Especially when PCOS comes with an unhealthy doses of insulin resistance, it’s such a vicious cycle!
Studies have shown that PCOS can increase your risk of miscarriage and after losing our second baby at a very early stage last year, I have sort of given up a little when it comes to looking after myself. It’s a hole I’m slowly but surely digging my way upwards from.
When Nature’s Best asked me to get involved in their new PCOS campaign, I was pleased to see a collection of articles on the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome section of their website covering a wide range of topics and linked conditions to help sufferers effectively manage their condition. I’ve been dealing with the symptoms of PCOS for 11 years and I’m glad that there’s now a hub of information available to myself and others that I can keep coming back to when needed. I’d definitely recommend heading over if you’ve got PCOS regardless of whether it’s a new diagnosis or pre-existing condition.
I take just a standard multivitamin at the moment but after reading the articles from Nature’s Best, I can see there’s a whole range of specialist supplements I could try to help and calm my symptoms such as CoQ10, N-acetyl-cysteine and Selenium. I’m going to make sure I buy some this month to see if I notice any improvements.
If you suffer from PCOS I’d love to hear from you with your experiences and any tried and tested remedies you swear by!