Girl Lying On Bed

The Reality of Living with PCOS

It’s no big secret that women’s health has historically been disregarded, so I don’t know why I’m always surprised when people don’t know what PCOS is. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PCOS is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It basically means that a hormonal imbalance causes issues with the egg that is supposed to be released each month during a healthy menstrual cycle. The ovaries make the egg, but it might not develop properly or be released as it should. This is one of the most common causes of infertility as it causes cysts (small sacs of fluid) to develop inside or on the ovaries.

I’ve always had irregular and remarkably painful, heavy periods. Doctors always dismissed this due to the stress of being a highschool student, my poor eating habits or other medications I was on. I tried supplements, healthy eating and a regular-but-not-too-eager exercise routine. I regularly missed school or work when my cramps became unbearable, even if I wasn’t on my period when I had them.

Kristen Bryant-Things I Keep In My Purse Flat LaysI essentially ignored my pain, feeling discouraged by doctors, until one day I had a sudden, horrible pain in my side and ended up in the ER. The doctors thankfully ruled out appendicitis but sent me straight to get a CT scan of my pelvis. There, they found a cyst in my left ovary. Apparently the pain had been caused by it bursting. Exhausted from ignoring the pain for countless years, I finally went to a specialist. After a few tests, she confirmed that I have PCOS. I love my OBGYN and I’m happy I have her as part of my professional support system, but it’s discouraging that there are few treatment options and I’m essentially stuck on birth control to regulate my periods and minimize my pain. Even on birth control, I still sometimes experience random stabbing pains or irregular bleeding. 

I live with PCOS by intentionally listening to what my body needs. I try to keep a balanced diet, exercise regularly to maintain my weight and take supplements to ensure my hormones are balanced appropriately. There are lots of ways to help with the pain, like heating pads, essential oils and a strong support system who will bring you tea if you’re stuck in bed. I also love finding influencers who are open about women's health, like Youtuber Sarah’s Day, who offers lots of tips on how to deal with PCOS naturally. 

1 in 10 women have PCOS but hardly anybody is talking about it. If you have irregular periods or extremely painful cramps, please consider talking to a specialist who will actually take your problems seriously. You can read more about symptoms here, but some of them include weight gain, abnormal hair growth and acne. For so long, I was shocked when my friends were able to act normally during their period. I assumed I was too sensitive or something. Please don’t ignore how your body feels — if you are in pain, something is wrong. Talk about it with a friend, mentor and health professional. Normalize the conversation around women's health so nobody else needs to suffer in silence.