For PCOS Awareness Month this year I wanted to write something a little different than I have in the past. I’m sharing a bit of a personal thought process on what PCOS symptoms look like, what awareness means to me, and why it’s important.
Over the years of dealing with PCOS, I have learned just how different this syndrome is from woman to woman. No two are the same and it’s mind boggling to me. It seems like it is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed syndromes because there is still such a misunderstanding of what it is and how the body deals with it. Symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman – some more extreme than others – and yet we’re all lumped under the same category. To be classified as having PCOS, I understand that a woman only needs two of the following symptoms:
- small cysts on the ovaries*
- annovulatory cycles*
- ovulatory cycles with weak follicles*
- excess weight gain, targeted in the abdomen*
- excess weight loss (also known as lean pcos)
- abnormal hair growth (especially on the face)
- abnormal hair loss*
- cystic hormonal acne*
- mood changes*
- pelvic pain*
- regular headaches*
- insulin imbalance and unstable blood sugar (pre-diabetic or hypoglycemic*)
- excess testosterone
- estrogen imbalance*
- low progesterone*
I put an asterisk next to the ones I experience now or have in the past.
That is quite the list! Because the qualifications for diagnosis are so loose, many women find themselves alone as they can rarely find someone with exactly the same symptoms or experiences.
You know what else I noticed?
Our bodies change.
Some women seem to heal while others get worse, and there isn’t a rhyme or reason as to why or how. Remedies that work for some don’t work for others. Even the nutrition needs vary from woman to woman as PCOS can cause high blood sugar, or low blood sugar, and each needs treated differently. There are so many products out there that target PCOS and claim to be a miracle cure, from shakes, to meal plans, to special drinks, to supplements, to herbs, to vitamins. It is really difficult to know how to treat our symptoms when we don’t understand how they are all connected, and when they connect differently for each of us. But can I encourage you to try? Believe me, it’s annoying as all get-out to be constantly targeted online by nutrition companies who claim they have the answer to PCOS, but you never know what might work. Give it a shot. Try something new. But first, learn your symptoms and start documenting how they change, what triggers them, etc. Is it what you eat? Is it the body products you use? Is it stress?
This is why PCOS Awareness is so important. Education is key, not just for us, but for medical professionals and these nutrition-focused companies as well. It’s a syndrome 1 in 10 women experience and yet so few understand. And while so few understand, we’re going to continue to be targeted from the wrong angle. “Do this and you’ll get pregnant!” “Eat this and your cycles are guaranteed to return to normal!”
The more awareness we can raise, the more likely we’re going to start seeing funding allocated to REAL research, which is very much needed.
The more awareness we can raise, the more it brings women together who feel alone and ashamed by their diagnosis so they can band together and lift each other up.
The more awareness we can raise, the more we can support each other as we learn to live with our symptoms.
The more awareness we can raise, the more likely we are to see change.