According to womenshealth, one in ten women have polycystic ovary syndrome. I am one of these women.
The NHS defines polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as “a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work“. Considering the condition is very common it's shocking to find that it takes an average of three years to be diagnosed and from my own personal experience the condition isn’t taken very seriously despite the serious side effects:
Irregular periods or no periods at all
Difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
Oily skin or acne
And many more
I’ve only been diagnosed with PCOS for one month however this condition has been affecting my life for many, many years. I have been suffering with acne (my main symptom) for five years, I’ve had irregular/no periods since I started menstruating and experienced painful penetrative sex. All these topics are difficult to talk about but why?
PCOS for me hasn’t been infertility, weight gain or growing facial hair, while this is the case for many women it hasn’t been for me and I think this has contributed to the reason I was being dismissed for so long. My Doctor, moments after she told me I have PCOS said to me “its strange you’re not obese“. PCOS doesn’t fit a certain mould and manifests differently in each person who suffers from it.
I want to bring issues like PCOS and endometriosis to the forefront, these are the conversations we need to be having. Growing up I never linked my acne or irregular menstrual cycle to PCOS, I thought it was just my age or down to factors such as stress. If I was aware of the symptoms and thought about my own body I could’ve been more aware.
When, through my own research I began to suspect I had PCOS and tried to bring it to the attention of medical professionals I was told “there’s not really much we can do, we can only treat the symptoms so let's just try to treat the acne“. I was told this by a female doctor who was pregnant, I was shocked. Time passed and my acne continued to come and go, periods continued to be irregular and painful, and I continued to lose confidence and feel at war with my own body.
I saw another Doctor who sent me for a blood test to check my hormones, yet surprisingly this came back completely normal. I asked my GP if I would be able to have a pelvic exam, and she agreed! Although moments like this can feel uncomfortable I think its so worth the few minutes of awkwardness if it means it’ll benefit your health, so ladies and gents if you have a medical issue you’re embarrassed about please seek help and don’t leave it! Anyway the results to my pelvic exam revealed I do have PCOS.
Since receiving my diagnosis I have felt a mixture of emotions. I was somewhat happy to have been correct, (always remember nobody knows your body better than yourself) I can finally look into managing my symptoms, but I am also full of dread and fear that my severs cystic acne may be something I have to live with for the rest of my adult life and I also fear that in the future I may face fertility problems.
For the past few months I have been taking the contraceptive pill 'Dianette'. This pill is specifically for women who have PCOS and suffer from symptoms such as acne or excessive hair growth as a result. While the pill may not be for everyone this has been really beneficial for me in reducing my acne and I haven't had any side effects thus far.
A few months ago, I reached a particularly low point due to my acne, so I decided to start an Instagram account called @acne_journey_20 to connect with people in a similar situation, so I’ve been able to connect with women who are experiencing issues like myself.
My advice for anyone suffering as a result of PCOS or any other hormonal imbalance, please don't give up in getting a diagnosis. I think the only thing more painful that having a condition is having one and not knowing. I will not let PCOS or acne rule my life and neither should you. Let's be strong together and start an awkward but much needed conversation surrounding women's health.