Saturday, 27 June 2009


I am going to do some sharing today.

Or as they call it in my horrible, corporate office where every single word is given a complicated and uninterpretable label (talking and brainstorming = Strategic Thinking, going to the pub = Relationship Building) I am going to do some Knowledge Transfer.

I have a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (I wonder why it isn't called POS) and in the interest of using the internet for good not evil, and to give anyone else who has just learned they have PCOS an understanding of what it actually means, I am going to tell you what I know about it in my own words rather than Doctor speak.

PCOS apparently affects 5% of women, you will hear lots of other stats but this is the one I have seen regularly used.

I found out I had it when, at 25, I started bombarding my Doctor about cures for my extremely hormonal skin. I had terrible jawline acne, which is known to be hormonal, and after a prescription of Zineryt (which did a great job of getting rid of a really bad bout) I was sent for an ultrasound "just in case". One of the symptoms of PCOS is very bad acne which far outlasts the normal teenage spots most girls get.

As a result of these skins problems I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of skin products, from high street to high end, and I will share my thoughts on this another time.

At the point of my ultrasound I was fully stocked up on knowledge of what this condition was, which celebrities have it (Victoria Beckham, Louise Redknapp and Jules Oliver) and what it could mean for me.

I didn't feel particularly nervous during the wait between ultrasound and results, and when it was confirmed I had PCOS I recall my first feeling being relief to have an explanation for why my skin had been so bad.

I was immediately put on a different pill (Yasmin) and I started taking B vitamins which were recommended in the book I bought (The Ultimate PCOS Handbook). I am not sure which ones did it, but my skin is now far improved. By no means perfect, but I rarely get breakouts in the aggressive way I did.

I also learned that PCOS sufferers are often obese or overweight, which I am not, and that they find it harder to lose weight than others, which I do. A GI diet is recommended, because it keeps your blood sugar level constant and reduces insulin production. "High insulin is a problem for women with PCOS, because insulin profoundly alters overall hormone balance, and causes your metabolism to go awry." obese Taken from here.

I have done the GI diet (or lifestyle programme as I think they call it) before and would certainly recommend it. Foods are rated by a traffic light system of red for BAD STAY AWAY, amber for Ok But Not Too Much and green for ALL YOU CAN EAT.

You can eat a lot of food (most vegetables are green light), can replace a lot of the bad stuff for good i.e. switching potatoes for sweet potatoes and white bread for wholemeal, and it does actually work.

I was told by my Doctor that they couldn't know how it would affect my fertility and I suspect it is the same for most people.

For some reason I don't feel worried which I know is dangerous to say aloud. I hope my warped mind isn't under the impression that just because the famous PCOS sufferers who I mentioned earlier have all had babies I will be able to, but I suspect it may be!

All the Doctor did say is that I should start thinking about conceiving sooner rather than later, which when I think of it now does scare me a little. I can't even see myself thinking about it until at least 30, the age my mother was when she even began to entertain the idea. The thought that I might need to get going (as it were) sooner, just in case, is not one that fills me with joy. Despite my happy relationship I do feel I would be acting out of fear I may not be able to conceive rather than desire to do so at the time.

PCOS is hereditary and I suspect my Auntie may also be a sufferer; she had the same symptoms as a young woman and has since battled with her weight. I imagine that 30 years ago they didn't even test for it, or perhaps it wasn't even widely known, but it is sad that she wasn't kitted with the same knowledge that I now am and therefore couldn't do so much about it.

I have read lots of quotes from women saying that PCOS takes away your feeling of femininity. I know some sufferers have excess facial hair, are obese, suffer terribly with acne and with the added question mark over whether you are fertile...well it is understandable that sufferers feel this way. For me I found it liberating, simply because I now know what my body needs me to do to keep it how I want it. So many women live trying this diet and that, struggling with different treatments for skin complaints and battling with weird and wonderful "miracle cures" for their personal body challenges.

As a PCOS sufferer at least I am able to turn away from the bombardment of products and quick fixes marketed to me every day. I now know what works for my skin (Yasmin Pill, B Complex vitamins, 2l water every day and a very simple beauty regime of Saaf cleanser and serum). I know how to lose weight (actually doing it is a different matter) and I know there is a reason for the peaks and troughs in my moods.

I may well be lucky because I don't have a lot of the symptoms I just mentioned, but equally I know they could be there, hovering behind me and waiting to pounce. In some ways that keeps me eating as well as I can and looking after myself a bit better than I otherwise might.

I hope some of this information was useful to you, any questions I will do my best to answer. I know there is a support group in London that I have the details of (although I have never been) and I am more than happy to share any other information I have found.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really belated comment from a total stranger, but I wanted to thank you for writing such an honest, eloquent post on PCOS. I was diagnosed about a year ago, and it's nice to see someone with such a positive attitude toward the whole thing.


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