After Zach and I got married in June, we decided it was time to cross our T’s and dot our I’s in terms of having children. We’re definitely not quite ready to have children but if you follow along with both of us you know he has a hereditary heart condition that can be passed down to our children. In an effort to get all the information to make the best decision when we are ready we decided to visit an IVF clinic to learn more.
I went into that apt thinking the only shock I’d get was sticker shock with how much IVF would cost. But after a few tests and a chat with the doctor, I left that office completely confused and deflated. That day I was officially diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder in women. The exact cause is still unknown, so it’s just known as a “hormonal problem” at the moment. However, genetics and environmental factors play a huge role in the development of PCOS.PCOS is the number one leading cause of infertility and is said to affect 1 in 10 women (10 million women in the world).
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods (or none at all), fertility problems (because of irregular ovulation), excessive hair growth (hirsutism), weight gain, bloating, fatigue, mood disorders (anxiety), headaches, thinning hair and acne. The other symptom is a chain of pearl like cysts on the ovaries.
The actual name of PCOS is interesting because it’s a disease that’s named after one of its symptoms. Not every woman with PCOS has cysts—we all just have a “hormonal problem.”
What hormones are involved in PCOS?
The three major hormones involved in PCOS are Androgens, Insulin and Progesterone. Insulin allows the body to absorb glucose (blood sugar) into the cells. In PCOS, the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as normal people, resulting in higher blood glucose levels, which then triggers the body to make more insulin. Excess insulin causes weight gain and causes the body to make more androgens.
My hormonal history:
To understand the full picture of how I landed in this place, I need to go back about ten years, when I was put on hormonal birth control (HBC). The OBGYN put me on it to help with irregular cycles and severe anxiety. Foreshadowing? I think so.
I was in high school at the time and was just happy my body was back to normal so I didn’t give it much thought for the 10+ years I was on it. Then last spring I started to feel very overwhelmed and stressed. I was gaining weight, had serious anxiety and was plain tired. I went to my OBGYN and I remember sobbing in her office saying something wasn’t right. I just knew it deep down. I told her I think I have a hormonal disorder and she told me it wasn’t possible because I was on birth control.
She talked me down, took some blood and told me I was just stressed and I needed to be less stressed. Sobs turned to anger and I left that office determined to know what was wrong with my body.
I started listening to podcasts about women’s hormonal health and ultimately made the decision to go off hormonal birth control last summer (2017). I figured if there was something wrong with my hormones, the HBC was just masking the symptoms, it wasn’t actually fixing the imbalance that was occurring in my body.
About 5 months after I stopped birth control, I noticed the same symptoms from 10 years ago were starting to surface. It was right in the middle of wedding planning so I kind of swept the symptoms under the rug until after our wedding when we went to the IVF clinic.
You have to fill out a full profile of your symptoms and issues before your apt. Once we saw the doctor, we were reviewing my information and the doctor goes, “oh, you have PCOS.”
I should note, my oldest sister was diagnosed with PCOS about 15 years ago. I had that on my chart so I thought he was confused and was reading where I had written about that. I responded and said, “no, actually my sister has it.” He replied and told me that by looking at all my symptoms it was clear I had it too. We did an ultrasound as part of the apt and he confirmed that I do indeed have PCOS.
My PCOS symptoms:
- My cycles are typically around 70 days when the average cycles is supposed to be 28 days. Essentially I skip every 2 cycles.
- Since I went off birth control in August 2017 I’ve gained about 12 pounds. This is probably the most frustrating and defeating symptom of all because I have been cleaner than I ever have in my life, yet I continue to gain.
- Anxiety has come and gone, but it’s been pretty steadily there for over a year.
- Fatigue is definitely there. I was blaming my tiredness on wedding planning, running a blog and having a full time job, which obviously is a lot, but now I know it was more than that. I did blood work at the apt and found out my thyroid is inactive too, which causes fatigue.
- Acne is a new thing for me and I typically get it around my mouth, especially at random times during the month.
- Headaches are definitely an annoying symptom and they come and go as well.
I’m happy I know I have PCOS, but I’m also so angry I have it.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m just plain angry that I have PCOS. When they confirmed I had PCOS so many thoughts filled my head.
This isn’t fair.
I eat so healthy.
I work out 5 days a week.
I know I have some stress, but I can manage it.
Will I gain weight forever?
Will I ever be able to have kids naturally?
Why is this happening to me?
Then I left the office and started comparing myself to everyone around me. Every thin girl I saw I’d think:
must be nice she doesn’t have PCOS
if I didn’t have PCOS, I’d be skinnier than her
it’s not fair my friends can eat whatever they want and they’re still smaller than me
I’m not proud of these thoughts, but they were the real thoughts that went go through my head. They’re the result of a giant hurdle I don’t want to face and some of the biggest adversity I’ve come against recently.
It’s a weird feeling thinking you’re doing everything right, yet your body does the exact opposite. I felt like my body was failing me. Like somehow I was cheating and wasn’t doing things right. I remember telling family and friends “I have no business gaining weight with how well I take care of my body.” But here I was on the scale, and yet again the number went up. And I was breaking out and exhausted and just nothing made sense.
So, when I was finally diagnosed with PCOS, I also felt relief. Because I had answers. Because I wasn’t going crazy. There was a reason for feeling the way I did. And now that I know what it is, I can make a clear game plan to start the healing process.
Is there a cure for PCOS?
There isn’t a cure for PCOS, which is why the IVF doctor tried to put my back on HBC and two different kinds of meds. I have to admit, the pill to magically help me lose weight was really tempting, but I knew all the medication was just going to mask more symptoms.
I follow enough women on social media (Lee from America, Simply Real Health, Root and Revel), to know that it’s possible to put PCOS symptoms in remission naturally, so that’s what I decided.
I’ve decided I’m not going to be a victim of PCOS and I won’t be defined by this. I’m done feeling sorry for myself. Because I know PCOS is often caused by lifestyle choices, I know I can heal my body with the RIGHT lifestyle choices. And that is so empowering.
So now I’m taking my real food, self-care and healing to the next level.
What I’m doing to heal PCOS naturally:
I first want to say it’s my goal here to do all of these things out of self-love, not out of bitterness. I want to make these changes and decisions because I love my body and want to take care of it, even if it might not be what is normal.
- I’m doing my best to balance my blood sugar because glucose carries hormones and is a major factor in PCOS.
- Continue to cut out dairy and gluten
- I’m surrounded by encouraging people, especially my husband. He committed to following a healing PCOS protocol with me. I’m so grateful for that!
- I spent time and money researching and listening to “how to balance hormones” podcasts and books. Surrounding myself with positivity and hope has been huge. Also with people who are going through the same thing.
- I cut out dairy and gluten to help heal my gut and reduce inflammation.
- I gave up caffeine and started switching to matcha, because caffeine can have adverse effects on PCOSers
- I stopped working out so hard so many days a week and I’m going to try yoga more to reduce physical stress
- I made a major career change (more to come on that😃)
- I upped my vitamin game (would you want to see a post on all the vitamins I take?)
- I’ve got an apt to go see a functional medicine doctor and I’m going to be working with a health coach for expert advice
- I’m focusing on adding more veggies and healthy fat into my diet
- I want to start journaling and meditating again (working on this one!)
- I want to start acupuncture
- I cut out soy
- I added nourishing superfoods to my diet like collagen, Glutamine, spirulina and matcha
- I read the book “Women Code”
- I’m slowly switching all my makeup and household products to toxin-free. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, and it absorbs everything we put on it. Toxins are major endocrine (horsmones) disruptors.
This is a super long list, and at times feels overwhelming. But I mostly feel empowered because I have control of how I take care of my body and whether or not the decisions I make ultimate serve me or make it worse.
I’m choosing to take control of how I feel, love my body more than ever and heal PCOS naturally.
And hopefully use my story and what I’m learning to help the 10 million other women in the world who suffer from PCOS too.
I plan on sharing more about my PCOS journey, what’s working and what’s not here, so if you ever have a question let me know! And if you have PCOS too, know that I feel you, that you aren’t alone and that together, we can heal our sweet bodies❤️