last weeks post all about PCOS if you haven't a clue what on earth that even means). Today, I feel it's time to share with you my story with it.
Before I even started my periods, my Mum gave me a book called 'The Period Book' (I can't believe I actually just found that - but seriously, if you're a Mum or have a younger sister etc, this book is actually really useful! They'll feel really awkward about it but they'll most likely massively appreciate it!), and in this book there was a chapter all about PCOS. I remember being petrified, wishing I didn't have to ever deal with that. Then when my periods finally began, deep down inside, after not having a single 'regular' 28 day cycle, I had a feeling I may have PCOS. Acne? Tick (since I was 8!). Unwanted hair? Tick (the 14 year old in me is sobbing her insecure heart out now I've admitted that). Irregular periods? Tick (they were usually every month and a half-two months but never predictable).
Enough was enough when I was 17 and I finally went on the pill. I was fed up with having horrible skin and my chin constantly erupting in painful, cystic acne. I was fed up with epilating away the hair on my stomach in case anyone saw when we were changing for P.E. And I was fed up with having painful, heavy, irregular periods.
My whole story about the pill is one for another day, but in case you were wondering, I was prescribed Yasmin to help with my skin. It took about 5-6 months of the worst acne I had ever experienced before my skin started clearing up. Oh, and it's also a pill that's banned in some countries such as France, and even killed some women.... (1, 2, 3, 4)
My time on Yasmin came to an end in February 2013, after I felt I didn't really need to be on it any more. I didn't expect my periods to come back right away but it wasn't until 6 months later and no period in sight that I thought I ought to go and seek some help. I saw a GP who laughed at me and said 'just go on the pill and you'll get your periods back', scaring me off getting any more help for another 3 months. My Mum kept urging me to get things sorted, especially as the longer you go without having a period, the more mucus and build up you get in the uterus and this also increases your chances of cancer.
There is another reason that most likely would have also heavily affected my periods coming back but again, that's for another day.
Eventually I saw a different GP who agreed to give me a blood test to check male hormone levels. A week later she confirmed my levels of male hormones were of a level that suggests they would cause PCOS.
The day after my 20th birthday, I had my first period and cried with happiness that I was 'working' again. You don't know what you've got until it's gone!
However I wasn't satisfied with the diagnosis and it took months before I got a referral at the hospital, where the Doctor told me I should just go on the pill, but I ought to have a scan. Several months later I got a letter with a date for my scan and a few months after that I had my scan....
I'd like to take a moment to discuss the scan.... Along I went, thinking how weird it was going to be having an ultrasound and being able to see what's going on 'down there'. I was called into the practice room, greeted by the Doctor and the Nurse to ask if I'd ever had an internal scan. No, of course, I'm too young to have a smear test too so have never had any medical professional have to go to those regions. He showed me a device that in all honesty looked like a strangely shaped 'toy' if you know what I mean. "You're.... y-you're going to put that.... inside me?!" I laughed. It wasn't uncomfortable but you could feel something 'down there'. It was very quick and then a few minutes later we were in a different room discussing what he saw.
He confirmed I had some follicles (cysts) on my ovaries but everything looked pretty much OK and he saw no major concerns. The main thing with me is that I'm actually healthy, I'm not overweight and I'm a healthy weight and treat my body well.
It may sound strange that a young 20-something would be concerned about conceiving (when I'm ready!), but the main scare with PCOS is that I'd struggle to have children or even worse I'd be completely infertile. I've been assured that I should (touches wood and crosses all fingers and toes) be fine when I decide to have children but I may need something to help with the ovulation. I'd be truly devastated, however, if things got worse and I really, really struggled to have children or even found myself infertile as having my own family has always been a dream of mine.
Where does that leave me now then? Well, from all of my research and from my passion for eating well, nutrition and just leading a healthy lifestyle, I know that eating a lower carbohydrate diet, eating plenty of good fats and avoiding all forms of sugar where possible is the best thing I can do. Also, avoiding dairy where possible (I haven't had cows milk in years). My aim is to be able to balance my hormones which will help with my skin, my mood, my weight and my periods. Sugar sends my hormones wild and I end up with horrible cystic acne and other spots that end up scarring. It also affects my periods massively and leaves me feeling down, bloated, irritable and tired.
For some women, eating this way doesn't work and I can't say I eat a low carb, high fat and protein diet and avoid sugar 24/7 because I don't. It can be a struggle, especially when you have such a sweet tooth. But, I know I feel and am my best when I do follow this way of eating. I'm still trying to get over that Christmas wine/sugar overload but I've been feeling over the past few weeks that it's finally coming to an end.
PCOS can't ever go away but there are definitely ways you can reduce the symptoms, which is something I'm really keen on sharing on the blog.
I hope this has given you a bit of insight to PCOS if you don't know much about it. Perhaps you too have PCOS and can relate to a lot of this? I would love to hear from you about this post, chatting more openly about PCOS is something I'm definitely going to be bringing to the blog more.
*Disclaimer* I am not a medical expert about PCOS, nutrition, fertility, hormones or dermatology at all, however I feel it's important I share my experience to potentially help someone out there
PS. Like last weeks post, this has been sat in my drafts for such a long time. This took a LOT of courage to post, so please be kind!