Women's Health: A PCOS Story

Women’s health. When someone says those words, you might think about babies and menopause and all sorts of normal processes of life. I don’t think of those things. I think of my own body and how it’s broken.

When I was 14, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. That’s a lot of big words, so let me explain. All bodies, male or female make testosterone and estrogen, the male and female reproductive hormones. When we hit puberty, our bodies produce both, but they produce more of the hormone from your birth-assigned gender.  My body, even though I’m female, makes more testosterone and less estrogen.

Now this causes a lot of complications: weight gain and depression are common. I have a higher risk of ovarian cancer and diabetes, I’ve developed male pattern hair growth (mustache, beard, happy trail, etc.) and I’m infertile. However, none of those side effects compare to the worst one.

In the past three years I’ve had two cysts burst on my ovaries. The first happened during my sophomore year of college. I was rushed to the North Adams Emergency room, where they did a CT scan. Because it had already burst by the time I got there, they couldn’t find anything. They sent me home with pain killers and a diagnosis of “stress pains,” despite me telling them I had PCOS.

Over the next year, I met with my OB/GYN several times for continued pain. They eventually told me the source of the pain was too high up to be in my ovaries (despite it being on my hip) and they sent me to a stomach doctor, claiming I had irritable bowel syndrome. The stomach doctor told me it was my ovaries, which began a half a year of phone calls back and forth to my OB/GYN and a lot of paperwork. While they argued, I continued to suffer constant pain.

They were still arguing when my second cyst burst. It was my junior year and I was on winter break. After 15 hours in the ER, they finally caught it on the CT scan. I finally had proof that I was right.

I was given more pain killers and sent home. I had a follow-up with my OB/GYN, where I was told to watch for signs of infection, not to lift anything heavy for a few weeks and to call back when I was home for the summer. I did call back over the summer; they didn’t do anything, even though I was still experiencing pain. And I'm still in pain: I’ve gone to three OB/GYNs and they can’t do anything for me.

See, there isn’t a lot of research into women’s reproductive health. And this isn't just me. I know a lot of girls my age who have experienced the same thing. 1 in 5 women suffer from PCOS and the best treatment we have is to be put on birth control as a hormone replacement.

 Personally, I feel ignored and pushed aside. I fear that due to current social debates I’ll lose my right to free birth control.

 I wish I could find an OB/GYN who would listen to me. I just hope that one day, women’s health will be seen as a more important issue.