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September is PCOS Awareness Month

September is PCOS awareness month so I sat down with my friend Erin to understand what its like to live with this disorder. 

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or Polycystic ovary syndrome, is a continuous buildup of tiny cysts in the ovaries as a result of an irregular period cycle. While there isn’t a lot of research, some have also pointed to genetics as putting you at risk for this disease. Additionally, it is notcontagious.

When and how were you diagnosed? 

Erin officially learned of her disease in April of 2017. Due to lack of sexual health knowledge, Erin was not aware of the symptoms that she was already showing beforehand—such as excessive facial hair growth and irregular periods.  When she was 17, Erin’s mom brought up concerns that she would go months without a period, so her doctor became concerned. Blood and urine tests were taken and results showed that an abnormal amount of testosterone and not enough estrogen was found. 

What are the symptoms and side effects? 

  • Excessive facial hair and or hair loss 
  • Irregular period or heavy periods 
  • Heavy acne 
  • Painful lower abdomen
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • PMS symptoms, “Imagine having PMS every single day, that's what PCOS feels like” - Erin C.

·      PCOS can lead to: risk infertility (if untreated long enough), diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and high cholesterol 

How many people have it? How many are at risk? 

Statistically, 1-10 women have it. Nothing really puts you at risk other than genetics but it is a disease you are born with so talk with the women in your family to see if they have it. 

Are there any treatment options? Is there a cure? 

The only treatment option, especially when being treated at a young age, is birth control in any form.  If you go undiagnosed long enough, there’s a higher risk for infertility and/or miscarriage, but there is no guarantee. There is also not enough research to say there’s a cure, or definitively say what causes it. Every woman is different in her symptoms which makes diagnosing/treatment particularly difficult. 

What are your own personal struggles? 

If her mom hadn’t noted the signs of something off with her daughter’s health, Erin could've lived her own life without ever knowing she suffered from PCOS until it was too late. The fear of not having the option to have her own children really weighs heavily on Erin and she is frustrated by the lack of visibility and research for PCOS. Part of her routine is sometimes having to shave her face which is a huge emotional stressor in addition to the excessive weight gain. “With PCOS, it is really easy to gain weight but 3 times harder to lose” - Erin. PCOS can affect not just your physical health but also your mental health. Feelings of anxiety and depression along with the emotional toll of the chance of infertility causes stress in relationships and the “feeling of being less than a woman.” 

Why did you agree to do this article? 

“There is not enough visibility so I want to become an advocate. It is so common yet so little known and I want young women and girls to realize sometimes what they are going through is not ‘normal’ and should not be ignored. Don't be afraid to ask questions.” 

If you think you may have PCOS, check for these signs and ask questions with your trusted OBGYN.

 

*All facts are stated by someone directly affected by PCOS, not a licensed medical professional.