So the title of this post let the cat out of the bag. Maybe I should have gone with something more like “It has to do with my ovaries & mood swings” or “That time I had too much testosterone” or “You know what sucks? My ovaries”. Guess the commitment to my creative juices just wasn’t flowing when I wrote that one out.
Get ready for a long read, because this one is a doozy.
All joking aside, though, it turns out that I have PCOS – Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s been a few roller coaster weeks, and if I’m being 100% honest, I’m really freaked out about going bald. It’s so vain, and maybe that’s a little peek into my heart and where I need some work — but what 27-year-old girl wants to think about losing their hair? I can’t think of one. Ahem.
Let me back up a little.
*[Word to the wise, there will be a lot of talk about periods, ovaries and other such things – feel free to skip this if that isn’t your cup of tea.]
Last January when I committed to getting healthy I was desperate to get my stomach back on track. I’ve dealt with stomach issues for as long as I can remember, but it all came to a very painful, very uncomfortable head at the end of 2012. I was miserable. On top of that, I’d started having break through bleeding from the pill. Since the pill wasn’t keeping me from having my dreaded (awful, heavy, horrendous) periods, I decided to stop taking it. This decision seemed to make sense because Christian and I want to try to have kids at some point and I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to give my body time to regulate itself before then. The good news is that my stomach did get better, much better in fact – I’ve felt better than I have in a really long time these last 6 months. The bad news is that after that breakthrough bleeding and a small/light period after stopping the pill, I didn’t get another one. (Note: it’s really hard to complain about going period free for 6 + months, just saying.)
Mid-way through July I decided to email my “lady doctor” just to check and see if I needed to do something about this lack of period. We emailed back and forth some with the final determination that I just needed to come in to be on the safe side. I scheduled the appointment, which included a pelvic ultrasound as well as a more general exam.
During my ultrasound, the tech is moving the wand around and comments on the weird, sharp turn my uterus takes before settling in on the ovaries for measurements. As soon as the first one popped up, all I could think was that it looked like a little round cheese grater (I’m not sure why I settled on cheese grater, but I did). At the moment, I thought about asking if that was normal, but decided to just save all my questions for the doctor — it was probably just eggs anyways, right? Here’s what I saw:
*this is not my ovary, but one that is eerily similar – source
My doctor came in and did a normal “lady” exam and said that things felt fine, but with the results of my ultrasound she was almost certain that I have PCOS… however in U.S. you can’t diagnose anything without accompanying blood work. She prescribed Provera and left me with instructions to come in to have my blood drawn once I’d had a reactionary period (on day 3).
Side note: I react horribly to changes in my hormone levels. Going on/off/changing birth control can throw me into a spiral of fluctuating emotions. During the 5 days I was on Provera and the week after I would go from neutral to crying to rage then back again in the span of 30 minutes. It was awful, awful, awful.
I had the blood test and went in last week to discuss my results which confirmed what we she already suspected – PCOS. My testosterone was high and all the signs pointed directly at PCOS. Here’s the summary, from Web MD of what that really means:
Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in the way you look. If it is not treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
*I’ve read varying numbers on how common PCOS really is — some say 5-10% of woman have it, while other sources go as far as to cite up to 20%.
After breaking the news that I, indeed, had PCOS we talked options: Metformin – Clomid – Weight Loss – Diet Change – Sugar Elimination – Chinese Herbs – Babies – Vitamins – Excercise. I’d been doing a lot of research so none of it was totally new or surprising. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to try to work through this thing naturally before I started choking down pills and talking the rate of having twins or triplets (which would not be ideal for my sanity).
In case you want the full rundown of PCOS, the Mayo Clinic does a pretty good job of covering it. But, for those that like the quick format, here’s the general symptoms and possible repercussions down the road. With PCOS, some of these symptoms may occur while others do not — PCOS doesn’t seem to look exactly the same for every woman who has it.
- Irregular or absent periods
- Pelvic pain
- Cysts on the ovaries
- Fertility problems
- Weight gain
- Hair loss and hair growth (hirsutism)
- Sleep apnea
- Heart Disease
- Cholesterol Abnormalities
- Endometrial Cancer
So, that’s where I am. Staring down a reality that doesn’t include nearly as much birthday cake as I’d like. I’m making light of this because it’s how I cope and how I manage to not spend hours each day spiraling down a rabbit hole of anxiety.
I’m going to spend the next two + months trying to get my weight down, trying to eliminate sugar, trying to cut back on wheat/dairy. If at that point, my levels aren’t stabilizing and I’m not having regular periods, I’ll look at going on Metformin to start. Like I said at the beginning of the post I worry most about losing my hair and how to deal with the acne that comes with being off of birth control. Since those are symptoms and issues that I can tangibly see and work on, they are at the fore-front of my mind. As for the fertility issues… Christian and I haven’t been “TRYING” to have children (I hate saying “trying” or even talking about “trying” – it sounds so awkward), so I think I’m in a bit of denial about how difficult that process might be for me when we choose to get serious. But, I’m choosing, most of the time, not to worry until it is my reality. Plus, you never know — maybe it won’t be an issue? Wishful thinking? Maybe.