4 Things EVERY Woman Should Know About PCOS (It’s SUPER Common)

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We DESERVE to know more about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

I walked into the ER at 3:00 a.m. in downtown Decatur, holding my stomach and grimacing because I’d been having intense cramps for hours on end and could barely keep myself upright. I hadn’t showered in at least two days, and my makeup was smeared across my face from crying.

I’d driven myself there so my husband could get some sleep before work.

An hour before I arrived, I’d started bleeding through heavy tampons and liners  and that was AFTER my period had been ongoing for SIX MONTHS.

When I approached reception and signed in, the nurse asked what was wrong with me. “So you’re on your period,” she said after I'd explained. “Have a seat and we’ll call you back.”

Irregular periods were something I’d grown accustomed to in my life. Occasionally, I’d experienced extended periods, or missed them altogether — but never for a six-month stretch, and never bleeding through so many products in a short amount of time. I knew it was something worse than just "my period."

After having my doctor challenge my reason for being there, getting a shot in the ass and spending four hours alone while perfect strangers did ultrasounds on the inside of my body, I got the news.

“You have PCOS,” the doctor told me, as though this explained everything. She summarized the illness from the print out papers she handed me, then sent me off to pay.

I cried all the way home, texting my husband frantically, not understanding what any of it meant, and desperate for someone to explain.

That was my introduction to PCOS, but other women may not even realize what they’re struggling with at all — suffering for years, even, without a clue. And that is NOT acceptable.   

There are things every woman needs to learn about this disorder, so we can get educated, move forward and take challenges head on — instead of floundering in the dark of a dismissive early morning ER diagnosis.

Here are 4 things that EVERY woman should know about PCOS:


1. PCOS can be seriously hard to diagnose (and REALLY painful).


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormone imbalance that leads to a host of easily mis-diagnosable problems. Women don't need to exhibit all of the symptoms in order to be diagnosed, but the most tell-tale symptom (cysts on the ovaries) is sometimes really hard to figure out. 

Instead of ovulating properly, the follicles in a woman’s ovaries never release their eggs, and in turn, become cysts. Though my cysts weren’t severe enough to warrant immediate action, in all likelihood, I was told the pain and bleeding I’d experienced was the result of one BURSTING. Yeah. OUCH.  

The symptoms of a bursting cyst can disguise themselves as numerous other symptoms like endometriosis, a super heavy period, or even appendicitis. It’s hard to pinpoint unless someone knows what they’re looking for, and there is frequent misdiagnosis.

I’ve had these symptoms since I was a teenager, but I wasn’t given a firm diagnosis of PCOS until I was 27 years old. It's really annoying, frustrating, and invasive; God only knows how many people had to take look inside my body during that time.

So for those helping a woman with PCOS out, make sure you have your best listening ears on and you're as attentive as possible. It can be a very tough time.  


2. It can make you feel SUPER unfeminine.


A lot of women with PCOS are really uncomfortable discussing it because of the awful side-effects that come with the disorder. One of the issues you can develop is hirsutism, which is a fancy way of saying “a shit ton of body hair”. Not all women get this, but trust me, when you receive the diagnosis, the first thing you’re going to do is check and see.  

Why the wolf-man issue? Basically, the cysts on your ovaries release androgens (testosterone), which yes, will make you produce more body hair. You could also go the opposite direction and get male pattern baldness. Needless to say, it's a terrifying thing for a woman to hear.

And did I mention that acne and dandruff go hand-in-hand with it? 'Cause they totally do.  

PCOS often has to do with weight gain, though it isn’t clear whether you develop the disorder because you’re overweight, or you gain weight because you’ve developed the disorder. Either way, PCOS can lead to a difficult road of weight loss, and may include becoming pre-diabetic (insulin resistant) or even type II diabetic.

Losing the weight is usually the best treatment, but when you first get your verdict, the only thing you're going to think of is sitting on your couch with a carton of ice cream and a bottle of wine, so give yourself a day to have a proper pity party before you move forward.

Friends and partners: get out the tissues, a shoulder to cry on, and maybe her favorite movie ... and perhaps be a little more understanding during "that time" of the month, because it can also cause more pain, too. 


3. PCOS can cause temporary infertility  but you still need birth control!


When you’re a woman that actually wants to be a mother some day, it’s difficult news to learn that your body is basically holding your own eggs hostage and poisoning you with them. It’s tough, especially in a society that puts such great value and importance on motherhood.

Because women with PCOS don’t ovulate regularly, we cannot conceive easily. It may be an uphill struggle—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Plenty of women with PCOS have gone on to be mothers — so don’t lose hope if that’s what you want!

One of the best ways to stop new cysts from forming is to be on a regular prescription of a birth control pill, which will keep your body from trying to ovulate, and therefore stop your eggs from going all Die Hard on your ovaries. This will also regulate your period — because some PCOS patients bleed too often or miss periods altogether.

For someone with PCOS, it can be difficult to discuss fertility issues with their S.O., especially when an illness can make you feel guilty about it, so understanding the issue is key.


4. Doctors can't really do much for you (YET).


It's true. I've seen FIVE doctors since my diagnosis just over a year and a half ago, and I've gotten everything from a paper handout from the ER physician to a straight up shoulder shrug. From what I've gathered, it's incurable, and the only thing they help with is to regulate it and lose weight (if you are heavy or obese). 

Doctors haven't really pinpointed down what exactly causes PCOS, and so they can give you medicine to treat the symptoms (birth control, Metformin, anti-inflammatory drugs), but not the disorder itself. They say that weight has a tie-in, but again, they don't know exactly if you develop it and gain weight, or gain weight and develop it. Heavier or even obese women are more at risk to develop PCOS, but they are not the only ones.

Even women at healthy, average weights can get it, which just leads to more shoulder shrugging and head scratching from doctors. It may be 2016, but women's reproductive health books still have giant dark spots in their wisdom. I've learned more from YouTube, WebMD, and Googling than I did from doctors.


A verdict (or the suspicion) of PCOS can be frustrating and upsetting as all hell, but you and your support group are your own best advocates when it comes to this, so learn all that you can, and most importantly, do what's best and healthiest for you.

PCOS is a diagnosis like any other, and you CAN overcome it. It may be difficult, and the journey might be hard, but it will be so worth it when you're through and on the other side.




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