Saturday, May 19, 2012

I've been keeping a secret...

I have to admit that I've tried to start this post a few times. A couple of times I had the post open to edit and just closed it with the screen completely blank. There is so much I am wanting to say and I'm also hesitant to even start this discussion. This is going to be a multi-post topic as there is no way I'm going to write it all in one post!

I've known for a little over a year that I've had PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome). Luckily the awareness of PCOS is growing and I have not had to struggle my whole life not knowing why I had all these symptoms - only about 10-12 years (Awareness should be growing because about 10% of women in the US have PCOS whether they know it or not!). I think part of the delayed diagnosis (besides lack of awareness) is because each time I went to a doctor I only had one symptom I discussed and then because we'd moved a lot, each doctor only heard about one symptom... I didn't really connect that each of my symptoms were, uh, connected. I was very lucky to have a doctor at my last Pap Smear who noticed some signs and probably asked some questions (I honestly don't remember now) and told me that I had PCOS. However, it is not something that I've announced to the whole world or even had the desire to talk about openly - I'd rather push it under the proverbial rug. Up until now I've only told a few people that I have PCOS. I think partially it is because it has the word Ovary in its name and my ovaries are not something I just bring up in casual conversation... I'm a little old-fashioned that way! (I have learned that there have been multiple attempts to rename it in the past but none have been successful... it was named after one symptom of the syndrome. PCOS is a syndrome not a disease as symptoms are not consistent.)

When I first learned about having PCOS, I'd never heard of it and so was a little curious. I did a little research online and found that just having PCOS put me at high risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity and a few other not so happy things. I also learned that by keeping a healthy weight I could reduce my higher risk of developing these not so happy things. Sounds easy right, just lose a few pounds... except people with PCOS actually have a HARDER time losing weight. Which I personally think is not fair since PCOS increases male hormones in your body - so should losing weight be EASIER! After I learned all this, I doubled my efforts of trying to eat healthy and lose weight (partly because I wanted to live past 50). I was actually fortunate to go on my first real diet (I'd never actively dieted before... just tried to eat healthier) that is actually close to the recommendations for women with PCOS. At the time I had no idea that I was so lucky in finding the right type of diet right off (I just knew it stressed eating fruits and vegetables as well as healthy grains - cutting back on the amount from the USDA recommendations however. So I knew it was healthy and since it worked, I stuck with it.) Then I got pregnant (infertility is common with PCOS and is something I'll discuss later) and for some reason a lot of vegetables actually taste like dirt or earth to me when I have morning sickness so out the window went my healthy eating... and I have to confess that I do have a tendency to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I want to (instead of eating healthier like some people... I blame it partly because I had been on a diet for so long!) 

About 2 weeks ago I needed to take the glucose screening test to see if I had gestational diabetes. After the test I was just curious as to how much glucose I had just drunk. I learned it was equivalent to about 1/4-1/3 cup of sugar (except sugar is half glucose and half fructose... fructose is digested differently than glucose. Our bodies handle straight glucose a lot better than fructose... but I wanted a general idea.) I also learned that because I had PCOS I was also at a higher risk for gestational diabetes. I would have to say that is when I decided to delve more into learning about what PCOS is and why it puts me at a greater risk for everything under the sun that I don't want to be diagnosed with in my life (okay slight exaggeration here)! I am still on a quest to learn more, but feel that I have learned quite a bit and will be sharing some of this stuff with you in the coming weeks.

However before I leave today, here are some common symptoms of PCOS: 
Irregular periods (also heavy bleeding and painful menstruation)
excess hair (facial-specifically beard/mustache area, body hair-back, toes, chest.)
male pattern hair loss
polycyclic ovaries (diagnosed by ultrasound)
 -there are others, but these are some of the most common

This is part of my series on PCOS and learning to understand and live with it. *I am not a medical professional, nor do I have a lot of knowledge of PCOS other than what I've read. This is just me, my opinions, how I understand PCOS and how I am dealing with it.


  1. My daughter also had PCOS and she went through alot of the same stuff you go through. She was never able to have children and she passed away in 2008. Bless you for telling your story and your life. You will be a blessing to other young women in the world. Bless you and prayers and hugs to you.

    1. I'm sorry for your loss, having lost a family member (brother) I know it is difficult, but I can't imagine losing a child! Hugs and prayers to you also.
      I know a lot of women with PCOS deal with infertility as well - in fact that is how a lot of women are diagnosed.
      I also feel that if I help at least one person to recognize that all the 'symptoms' they're having is PCOS then all the posts about it will be definitely worth it!


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