Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCS) is one of those conditions that isn't life-threatening, but is really, really, really annoying and potentially heartbreaking. The struggles women with PCOS know all too well challenge our notions of body image and fertility, two of the cornerstones of what society has decided "make us women."
If you don't already know what PCOS is, it's an endocrine disorder that messes with your hormone levels, reversing the androgens and estrogen so that you have more male hormones in your body. The results are many and can vary, depending on the person. Some women with a milder form, like me, mostly have issues with inconsistent menstrual cycles, frequent ovarian cysts, and the occasional acne. Other women have trouble with too much hair in the "wrong" places and not enough in the "right place," weight challenges, and fertility struggles.
I'm going to tell you right now that having a condition that messes with your idea of what it means to be a woman (and what society tells us it means, as well) can really mess with your mind. It's hard always feeling the need to walk out the door in full makeup, or spending all your money on hair removal that never seems to be permanent. It's difficult managing the hormonal end of this condition as it is, especially when you're trying to get pregnant, but when you have to constantly battle your own self esteem in the process? Well, it can be a depressing condition to have, to say the least. So, with that in mind, here are 12 struggles women with PCOS know all too well, because talking helps:
Dealing With Unpredictable Cycles
The unpredictability of your menstrual cycle is a hallmark of PCOS, and is a giant pain in the a** in terms of planning your life. I remember when I was dealing with the worst of it, my cycles ranged between 35 days and 60-plus days in length.
Having Hair In Places You Don't Want Hair
Hirsutism (excessive hair growth) is one of the horrible symptoms of PCOS, which relates to the higher level of testosterone in your body. Hair basically grows everywhere a woman (or at least this woman) doesn't want it to grow. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Weight That Just Won't Budge, No Matter What You Do
Women with PCOS have a much harder time managing their weight than the average woman. When my PCOS was in full swing, the amount and type of food that I was eating, along with the amount of exercise I was engaging in, should have me a size or two smaller than the size I was, but I couldn't lose a single pound.
Having Cycles That Go On Forever
Cycles that last 60 to 90 days are nothing new to the woman struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome. You'd think it would be kind of convenient, not having to deal with getting your period every single month, but it just ends up being disturbing, because it doesn't feel right.
Trying To Figure Out When You Ovulate Is Like Finding A Needle In A Haystack
When you have PCOS, your body will try multiple times to ovulate, without success. So, if you're trying to get pregnant, you'll notice all the signs your body is getting ready to ovulate (your temperature increases, your discharge changes), without anything actually happening. Then your body will try again a few weeks later and, again, nothing will happen.
Fighting An Endless Supply Of Acne
Seriously, am I 15 years old again? Sadly, and for me, it's not the easy to take care of zits that show up for the part they've apparently planned on my face; it's the painful, cystic ones that last forever. My face only started scarring from these babies in my twenties.
Charting Is A Nightmare
If you're someone who is used to charting your cycles, either for birth control or trying to get pregnant, the charts make no sense at all. You learn what to look for, and what is "normal" in a cycle, and then you look at your own chart, and it looks totally different.
The Constant Battle With Your Self Esteem
There's no other way to put it: for me, it sucks to have hair on my face. It sucks to look in the mirror and see pock marks from acne scarring. It sucks to have thinning hair. I remember listening to a friend who was heavier than me lament over her weight, and thinking to myself that I would do anything to trade her flawless skin, extra weight and all, for my acne-scarred smaller frame. I guess the grass is always greener, right?
Dealing With Skin Tags
For the most part, I don't pay much attention to these suckers. My kids, however, are a different story. My 2-year-old son is obsessed with one on my neck, and often grabs it and twists it to comfort himself. The ones that snag in my bra strap aren't my favorites, either.
Trying To Avoid Blood Sugar Issues
I haven't had to worry about diabetes, but I did develop hypoglycemia, which can be a precursor to diabetes. My blood sugar was all over the map, for a long time, and processed foods were basically a no-no for me, because they all had so much sugar.
Trying To Explain Your Condition
If you tell someone you have PCOS, chances are, you're going to get a "Huh?" in response. When you explain the acronym, you will likely hear something along the lines of, "But what does that mean?" and then you have to explain the symptoms and then why those symptoms are present, and the whole thing always takes forever. More often than not, throughout the entire explanation process the person you told will be looking at you surreptitiously, to see if they can spot your symptoms, too.
Struggling With Your Fertility
Being diagnosed with PCOS just six months before I planned on trying to get pregnant with my husband, was like being hit with a bombshell. I had heard about the challenges, and knew there were entire forums and books devoted to women who struggled with this condition while trying to conceive. I was one of the lucky ones, taking only four months to finally become pregnant, but I know plenty of women that have been trying for far longer.