You can’t have a baby! You have PCOS!

That’s what the doctor told me. It didn’t only shock me, it almost gave me a heart attack. I mean, I’m an only child, I promised my mom 12 kids.
My husband is so handsome, we need to spread those genes.

That was August 2015. I consulted an OB-GYN about my irregular menstruation and the cyst I previously found on my breast. When I first found it in November 2013, another OB-GYN said we had to operate it. But I got scared. Don’t judge me, I have an unexplained fear of knives and everything like that. I was told to monitor it and get regular ultrasounds.

I was back for that ultrasound where we saw a lot of cysts in both my breasts. I can only feel one big one, but the ultrasound showed a lot of small ones in both my breasts. I got so scared for two seconds, but the doctor said there’s nothing to worry about since they’re all tiny. Even the big one I can feel was less than the size she would consider surgery. So we’ll just leave it there, observe it, and monitor it with regular ultrasounds.

And since I was already there, I also mentioned my irregular menstruations and asked how we could regulate it. She told me to get a Transvaginal Ultrasound so we’ll know what’s going on down there. And we did.

It showed that I have cysts (a sac-like pocket of tissue that contains fluid, air, or other substances) in my ovaries. I have what is called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.  It means my hormones are out of balance, not PCOS the machine we use during election in the Philippines.

The diagnostic criteria for PCOS states that a woman has PCOS if she has at least 2 of the following 3 criteria: a. Irregular or absent periods, b. blood tests or physical signs that show high androgens, c. Polycystic ovaries.

I have always had irregular and very painful menstruations. My mom and I consulted so many doctors and they all said the same thing, that it’s nothing, it’ll get normal one day, etc. But it didn’t get normal and we knew that there is something wrong. Together with the ultrasound that showed the cysts in my ovaries, we have confirmed that I have PCOS.

PCOS, according to PCOS charity Verity, is incredibly common and affects 1 in 5 women. It is also the most common cause of female infertility. That means I would have a HARD time getting pregnant. It’s not impossible but it can take so much longer than the average woman and it can be a source of great heart ache. So, before asking if I’m pregnant or when I am going to have children, please tread carefully.

I went to another doctor and hoped she’d say something different. However, she said the same thing, that I have PCOS. Stubborn as I am, I refused to believe them. I went to another doctor and she confirmed what I already heard, that I have PCOS.

I still don’t want to give up. If there’s one thing you need to know about me is that I’m persistent. I went to another doctor and she echoed what the previous doctors have already said. She, however, said something more that answered some questions.

She told me that it’s going to be a bit easier for me to get pregnant because I’m still young. Then I had a light-bulb moment. Now I know why God granted my prayers to marry the man I’ve been praying for at a “young age” of 24. Yes, young. Most people’s reaction when I told them I’m getting married is, “But you’re so young.” Yeah, I’m 24. And we’ll talk about that in another blog.

Anyway, a few weeks after I got engaged, after I landed from cloud 9 and started to prepare for my wedding, I asked God why me. I know I have no right to ask him why but I did. I’m sure I’m not the only one who started praying for my future husband at 13. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose mom prays with her. Out of the probably millions praying for the same thing, God granted my prayers. I’m 24 and married to the man I’ve been praying for. At that moment, everything made sense and my questions have been answered. Now I know why God allowed me to marry “young”. So I will have a chance to fulfill my young innocent promise to my mother.

I have never talked about my condition except with my mom and a few close friends who all don’t know what PCOS is. PCOS is such a personal syndrome that’s why many of us don’t talk about it too much. But for the first time in the world wide web, I’ll talk about it. Join me?

With the help of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health’s fact sheet on PCOS, here are a few things you may need to know about it.

Causes of PCOS

The cause is unknown. But most experts think that several factors, including genetics, could play a role. A main underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to:

  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with ovulation

Why do women with PCOS have trouble with their menstrual cycle and fertility?

The ovaries, where a woman’s eggs are produced, have tiny fluid-filled sacs called follicles or cysts. As the egg grows, the follicle builds up fluid. When the egg matures, the follicle breaks open, the egg is released, and the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus (womb) for fertilization. This is called ovulation.

In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn’t make all of the hormones it needs for an egg to fully mature. The follicles may start to grow and build up fluid but ovulation does not occur. Instead, some follicles may remain as cysts. For these reasons, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Plus, the ovaries make male hormones, which also prevent ovulation.

Normal ovary and polycystic ovary
Polycystic Ovary versus a Normal Ovary | what it's like to have PCOS.
http://womenshealth.gov

How do I know if I have PCOS?

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Your doctor will take the following steps to find out if you have PCOS or if something else is causing your symptoms.

Medical history. Your doctor will ask about your menstrual periods, weight changes, and other symptoms.

Physical exam. Your doctor will want to measure your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. He or she also will check the areas of increased hair growth. You should try to allow the natural hair to grow for a few days before the visit.

Pelvic exam. Your doctor might want to check to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen by the increased number of small cysts.

Blood tests. Your doctor may check the androgen hormone and glucose (sugar) levels in your blood.

Vaginal ultrasound (sonogram). Your doctor may perform a test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the pelvic area. It might be used to examine your ovaries for cysts and check the endometrium (lining of the womb). This lining may become thicker if your periods are not regular.

 

If you have PCOS, get your symptoms under control at an earlier age to help reduce your chances of having complications like diabetes and heart disease. Talk to your doctor about treating all your symptoms, rather than focusing on just one aspect of your PCOS, such as problems getting pregnant. Also, talk to your doctor about getting tested for diabetes regularly. Other steps you can take to lower your chances of health problems include:

  • Eating right
  • Exercising
  • Not smoking

Treatment

PCOS has no cure. However, there is treatment, which may involve lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise.

Upon learning that I have PCOS, the doctor looked at me and said, “But you’re so thin.” Like I haven’t heard that already. I have always been thin my entire life. The reason she was shocked is because most women who have PCOS tend to be overweight.

I went to gym near my house so someone could help me on the right exercise regimen. Before we started, my trainer Steve and I measured my height and weight, and of course my fat percentage. Steve assumed that because I’m so thin, that based on my height and weight, that my fat percentage would be somewhere around 15-18%. We were both shocked when it was 24%. Like what? So I have fat in my body, they are just not showing. They are all in my stomach, and most of the time, I am good at hiding them.

Aside from diet and exercise, birth control pills may help with improving the regularity of periods, excess hair, and acne. When I told the doctor I have irregular periods, I was hoping she’d give me birth control pills. And she would have if not for the cysts in my breasts.

Because of the broad range of symptoms associated with PCOS there are also a broad range of treatment options which a doctor will recommend tailored to an individual.

The good news, according to Huffington Post is that for most people, PCOS treatment is remarkably successful.

It means there’s still a chance, despite what your doctors might tell you. Even if you don’t opt to go with drug-related treatment, adopting an all-around healthier lifestyle can help you greatly reduce the symptoms of PCOS and improve your chances of having a successful pregnancy.

 

I am saddened by the idea that there is no cure for PCOS just yet. And so this is something that I have to learn to live with. I may well get my symptoms under control but I need to make sure that I keep them under control.

So, everyday when I wake up, I make a decision that PCOS is not going to get the better of me. Today, I will work hard to stay healthy. Some days are better than others but on the whole, I will do everything that I can to keep my PCOS well managed and in control.

If not properly managed, over time it can lead to additional health problems later in life, such as type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and endometrial cancer.

Having PCOS is an expensive business. Not only are there doctor’s bill and medications, there is also the cost of fertility treatment to consider. Eating properly to manage my PCOS is also crucial and healthy whole foods tend to be much more expensive than standard processed foods. So, treating my PCOS is an investment of time, money and energy. It’s an investment that I am prepared to make though, to live my life to the full and in order to bring forth children into this world.

For interesting facts about PCOS, you can refer to this blog: 30 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT PCOS

???? Caren

P.S.

Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? What made you realize that something was wrong? Let me know in the comments below and share your story.

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