Our lives tend to be busier now more than ever. From working on our careers to tending to our families the lives of modern-day ladies are extremely occupied. We put our families first, we put our husbands and partners first, we put our homes first, but we tend to make ourselves the last priority. One of the ways that I have made myself the last priority in the past few years is by putting my health last – particularly my PCOS.
That negligence has cost me in so many ways and I can’t tell you how much I wish things could be different. They say that if you can change at least one life with your story then that’s a success. Today I want to share my story in hopes that you or anyone you know can benefit from learning from my mistakes.
My story is nothing extraordinary. It’s nothing different from what many other women suffer with. My story begins with weight gain that I attributed to bad habits (sedentary lifestyle and a penchant for drinks and dinner out a few times a week) and irregular periods. Where my story will end, I don’t yet know. What I do know is that at this particular point in time I am getting the treatment I need.
My PCOS journey began in 2013 when I researched my symptoms and realised that something was off. I went to my GP and got diagnosed. At about that time I saw an ad to take part in a study for PCOS sufferers and joined up.
What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a disorder caused by an imbalance of the reproductive hormones. The disorder causes infertility as well as fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries. PCOS usually affects women of childbearing years.
Some of the symptoms of PCOS include –
Irregular menstrual cycle – from missed periods to fewer periods than normal (less than 8 in a year) having irregular periods is a major symptom. Some women with PCOS stop having periods altogether.
Hirsutism or too much hair – usually present on the chin, face, or other body parts where men most commonly have hair. Hirsutism affects up to 70% of the women with PCOS.
Acne – excessive acne on the face, chest, and upper back.
Weight gain – excessive weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
Thinning hair – or hair loss on the scalp.
Even though you may or may not be afflicted by them all. I first noticed something was wrong when I started getting stray hairs on my chin. Yes, it is so personal and quite mortifying to share that but that was the first sign that I really started noticing. Couple that with the difficulty of losing weight and add irregular periods to the mix and the red flag was definitely waving.
While there are textbook cases of PCOS there are also instances, like mine, that tend to be a bit different. For example, my PCOS symptoms are some of the common ones, but the biggest issue that has come about for me is menorrhagia also known as heavy or prolonged periods.
What is the cause of PCOS?
The main cause of PCOS is insulin resistance. The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose can’t enter the cells as easily so it builds up in the blood.
Getting a handle on insulin resistance is the key to managing your PCOS symptoms.
The Physical and Mental Effects of PCOS
The physical and mental effects of PCOS can differ according to what the sufferers’ individual symptoms may be. In my case, by far the biggest burden has been menorrhagia or a very heavy period of bleeding (2-3 days) every few periods. Bad stomach cramps and physical weakness and tiredness.
Unfortunately, the heavy blood loss has led to anaemia and in extremely bad instances my haemoglobin levels have been so low that I have needed to be hospitalised to receive blood transfusions.
The mental effects of PCOS are quite traumatic as well. It takes its toll on you mentally and emotionally when you can’t control your body. Aside from the pain that comes from cramps, there is also the emotional toll that having those extra stray facial hairs has on your self-esteem.
The worst thing for me has to be the trauma that an unexpected heavy bleed can cause. Especially because I know that a heavy bleed could happen any place, any time. So I always have to have pads with me wherever I go.
I’ve found that it’s so important to have a good support network when you are suffering from a long-term condition.
My other half is an absolute rock for me. There’s pretty much nothing he won’t do to help me when I’m unwell. I don’t really talk about the condition outside of trusted family members and a couple of friends, who have been wonderful. This is the first time I’ve opened up outside of my circle of trust and knowing that people who love and support me will be reading this post has given me the confidence I needed to write it.
Medication and Lifestyle Changes
Making sure that you get good medical advice and are on the right medication is essential. There are a number of medications that you could be prescribed or encouraged to take. In my case, tranexamic acid pills are vital in dealing with unexpected heavy bleeding. Ferrous sulphate can really help to boost your iron levels and hormone pills, such as oestrogen, can make a huge difference in treating PCOS.
By making simple lifestyle changes you will also see that your symptoms will begin to ease. In fact, I’d even say that lifestyle is as important as medication, and for some, even more important. Some of the most important changes I’ve made are:
Taking supplements – It’s been vital for me to take high-quality supplements, like those provided by Nature’s Best. I take a very complete multi-vitamin daily and I swear by N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and magnesium supplements. Supplements have actually really boosted me, especially when I’ve most needed it.
Diet – I eat an iron-rich diet and have 2 big glasses of orange juice daily (as vitamin c helps iron absorption). I’ve also found that restricting my carbohydrate intake has helped me shift some weight, which has helped.
My Advice to Those Living With PCOS
If you haven’t been diagnosed but suspect you may have PCOS, don’t leave it. Go to your GP as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be a little politely pushy if you have to. Eat a very iron-rich diet and take the right supplements. This condition can be cured so above all, stay hopeful!
I hope this post has been helpful. And, as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions.