As a woman who has struggled with polycystic-ovary syndrome (PCOS) for most of her life and didn't know squat about it, I feel like it is important to educate woman on this disease especially since it affects 5% to 10% of reproductive age women.
What exactly is PCOS? Well, for starters it is an endocrine disorder that is characterized by high levels of androgens (male hormones) from the ovary and is associated with insulin resistance which these two factors combined cause anovulatory dysfunction in women. Tiny follicles on the ovaries, which can be referred to as "cysts," usually surround the ovaries appearing on ultrasound like a string of pearls. These multiple cysts are formed because there is a hormonal imbalance in the woman's body.
Additional results from an overproduction of androgens in females is excessive hair growth on the face and body (hirsutism), hair loss from head (alopecia), acne, skin problems, and irregular, heavy or absent periods. Women with PCOS who are insulin resistant as in the majority of cases, will experience weight gain in the abdominal area, difficulties losing weight, intense cravings for carbohydrates, and hypoglycemic episodes. Let me tell you, these symptoms are NO FUN. I don't have every one of these symptoms, but I have enough to tell you that PCOS is the devil.
Even though I was diagnosed with PCOS in high school, I was NEVER explained what REALLY was going on in my body. This is how my appointment went when I was diagnosed with PCOS.
Doctor: Bridget, it appears you have a condition called PCOS. For you to get regular periods, you should go on the birth control pill to regulate your cycle. Oh, and possibly down the road, you will have trouble getting pregnant.
Me: My sixteen-year-old self...Ok, thank you. I'll take the birth control. Aren't I supposed to be preventing pregnancy at sixteen anyway?
There was no education. There was no explanation. And being sixteen years old, I didn't know where to even begin to educate myself on this disease. I was young. I was naive. And I was just following my doctor's orders.
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Bridget is best known as a fertility nurse at Main Line Fertility.