It’s Time To Go To The Doctor. Period.

In the beginning, like most of you, I dealt with irregular periods which, luckily, sorted themselves out within a year or two. This regularity continued until I was about 17, and could be verified by my meticulously tracked period, courtesy of the app, Clue. Each month, I would track my cravings, my pain level, my exercise/physical activity, my mood, and my productivity and motivation levels. About halfway through my junior year, I began to skip my periods; a month here, two months there, and before I knew it, six months had gone by without one. Although I thought this was fairly weird, I attributed it to the stress induced by being a highly-involved and academically-minded high school student. I consulted the women in my life about this issue, only to be told that I needed to decrease my stress levels and that the problem would solve itself.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels My periods began to regulate once again during my first semester of college, but after December, I went months and months without a period again until the Summer. For about a year now, I suspected I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, better known as PCOS. This is a disorder in which it can become progressively harder to lose weight, can cause extremely irregular periods, and can possibly lead to infertility. The symptoms of PCOS heavily aligned with what had been occurring within my body and externally since my junior year of high school, and I was about to enter the third year of such issues. Deep down, I knew this was not normal and this was not something I could manage through a lesser course load or through excessive exercise and dieting.

I finally sat down with my mom to discuss this, and we agreed that it was time to see my pediatrician and discuss these issues. My pediatrician agreed that these symptoms aligned with PCOS and that we would continue follow-up appointments throughout my collegiate years in order to solve this issue so it would not continue to affect me in the future. Like many other women, I was prescribed birth control, specifically the combination pill, in order to combat this issue. The additional estrogen and progestin in the pill would aid in kickstarting a period each month, as well as help balance out my hormones so I would no longer suffer from other symptoms, such as excessive acne. That being said, while birth control has been a lifesaver for me in finally controlling these problems that I have dealt with for so long, hormone treatment is not the only solution.

Plan B Alexandra Redmond / Spoon As much as birth control has been helpful, one can also imagine that finally getting your period after months of not having one is not as nice as you would expect. Birth control has also led me to have cramps for the first time in my life, as shocking as that is to say. My periods on birth control are extremely different than the ones I had until I was 17, but I also know that this treatment is what works for me and my PCOS issues and won’t necessarily  work for everyone. Some women cannot take birth control as this may heighten issues through their side effects, such as depression. Some women choose to cut out certain foods or target exercise differently in order to avoid taking these additional hormones. Again, this is why it is so important to speak to your physician and determine what is best for you and your health, as what works for one person does not work for every person.

If you can relate to this story in any way, I would highly encourage you to speak to your physician about your symptoms and concerns so together, you can both come up with a solution. You do not have to, and should not have to, wait as long as I did to get help, and you should take care of your health before it affects you in the long run. I didn’t realize the extreme risk I was taking (susceptibility to uterine cancer, diabetes, and even infertility) the longer I waited to get help. While I am extremely lucky that I finally spoke to my mom and pediatrician about this within two years of my initial symptoms, I would again encourage you to bring this up at your next appointment to determine how to approach this, following up with additional testing and treatment plans. This was, and is, daunting and terrifying to have to go through at such a young age, but PCOS affects so many women around the world. The support system I have gained from women diagnosed even younger than me, to those diagnosed in their 30s that unknowingly suffered for so long, is astonishing. You do not have to try to solve this by yourself, the way that I did for so long; please speak to your physician to solve this for you, and only for you.