Figures from pcos-uk.org.uk suggest that one in 10 women have PCOS - which roughly translates into 3.5 million women in the UK - making it a very common condition indeed! The term Polycystic Ovaries, describes ovaries that contain many small cysts, about twice as many as in normal ovaries. These cysts are egg-containing follicles that have not developed properly due to a number of hormonal abnormalities. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the condition in which women with polycystic ovaries also have one or more additional symptoms.
- Irregular periods, or a complete lack of periods
- Irregular ovulation, or no ovulation at all
- Reduced fertility - difficulty becoming pregnant
- Unwanted facial or body hair (Hirsutism)
- Oily skin; acne
- Thinning hair or hair loss from the scalp (alopecia)
- Depression and mood changes
PCOS only having been discovered in 1935 has meant historically, in a large number of women, the syndrome has gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Even as someone who was correctly diagnosed with the condition 16 yrs. ago the amount of support and information about this is and was rare! I remember feeling so very alone and like I may be the only person on earth who had it.
I was a normal weight until the age of 12 when I hit puberty. Worried when I started to inexplicably gain weight my mum took me to a nutritionist who advised her to put me on a Slim Fast diet, unfortunately I just gained weight even faster with the meal replacements. By the time I was 16 I weighed 16st and my periods had become extremely erratic. At 19 yrs. old I had bled so badly, in one menstrual cycle, that I was hospitalized with life threatening anemia. It was then that I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and at my biggest weighed 25st.
Fast-forward 16 yrs. and the information, though still vague, about the causes and cures for PCOS is more freely available. But more work, research and awareness is sorely needed in our community, as in my personal experience women with the condition are rarely informed, or know about any types of support! Even rarer, as my weight loss story proves, people may not know that there's possibly a way to reverse symptoms or almost cure the syndrome with a simple healthy lifestyle switch! I ask the question 'could you be one of the 1 in 10?' because PCOS symptoms vary in every individual case and you may not even be aware you have it... you may only have mild facial hair, slightly unpredictable periods... or no periods at all and be morbidly obese. So I feel now with the help of the information superhighway it's time for us as women to become conscious of changes in our bodies and seek help!
So in a new 3 part PT Pause special I sit down with Amy Mercado a personal trainer who also has the condition, to share our different experiences and shed light and awareness on PCOS.
In the last two weeks I've had a series of health checkups, blood tests and an ultrasound scan. The last time I did any such checkup was when I was diagnosed, so after losing over 13st I was very intrigued to see if my new lifestyle had any effect on my condition. I found out that my blood sugar levels were now normal, which was a relief as I was at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But extraordinarily to my mum and I, when attending the ultrasound, was the technician's report about my cysts. The technician was unaware of my past PCOS diagnosis, and I just randomly starting asking her about it. She turned to me and asked if I was sure I was actually ever diagnosed, as she could not see any abnormal cysts! Gob smacked, my mum and I questioned her further; asking if she was sure there weren't any abnormalities? The technician said she couldn't see anything! I explained to her that I had recently achieved extreme weight loss, and she advised me to speak to my doctors to get a proper side-by-side analysis of the changes in my condition.
For me this is a revelation that perhaps my new lifestyle has actually reversed my condition... a condition I thought I'd have to live with, in its severity, for the rest my life. I had prepared myself for a life of infertility and erratic periods. Obviously in some part without definitive doctors reports I can't say if I truly have reversed or cured my PCOS, and the next step for me is a hormone check. But there has been a definite positive effect which is now motivating me to champion more research into a possible cure and to raise awareness to all women so we can be empowered informed and supported!
If you suspect you may have PCOS please don't put it off, speak to your doctor or a health professional ASAP! If you have already been diagnosed and need support these are some of the best links I've discovered.
PCOS Support Links