The day I was diagnosed with PCOS, is the day my life changed. I do have to say that I was very fortunate to have a fantastic OB/GYN when I was younger. This is because back in the day that I was diagnosed most doctors still didn’t understand PCOS enough to feel comfortable diagnosing it. Because PCOS symptoms and side effects are different for everyone it has always been so hard to diagnose. Although he is still practicing, only doing a few days of working with residents, he is probably the most knowledgeable doctor out there when it comes to PCOS. However, I’ve very grateful that there was someone so dedicated to his work, and I got to be one of his patients for 19 of the 40 years he was practicing!
Before I go into PCOS symptoms and side effects, I’m going to give just a little background to PCOS because not everyone has heard of it. You can find all kinds of descriptions for PCOS by using Google. However, I think the description provided by Wikipedia sums it up pretty well.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
… is one of the most common endocrine disorders among females. PCOS has a diverse range of causes that are not entirely understood, but there is strong evidence that it is largely a genetic disease.
PCOS produces symptoms in approximately 5% to 10% of women of reproductive age (approximately 12 to 45 years old). It is thought to be one of the leading causes of female subfertility and the most frequent endocrine problem in women of reproductive age. Finding that the ovaries appear polycystic on ultrasound is common, but it is not an absolute requirement in all definitions of the disorder.
Now, of course, the description goes on and on because women tend to have different PCOS symptoms and side effects and at one time they were so uncommon that doctors would say no two women had the same symptoms. I will touch base on many of the symptoms and side effects, but mostly just the ones that I’ve had to deal with or am dealing with today. Over the years, I have had symptoms that I no longer have and today I have some that I didn’t have five years ago, ten years ago, or even 20 years ago.
PCOS Symptoms and Side Effects
This was one of the first symptoms I was presented with. From the time puberty hit me I never had a regular cycle. In fact, to this day, I still do not have a regular period of 28-32 days. My cycles can and have always ranged from 30 days (maybe even a few days less) to well over 120 days between cycles. Naturally, this leads to other problems in life, some of which turn out to be symptoms.
Because I do not have regular cycles I have had fertility issues. As I mentioned in my previous post when I was first diagnosed I was told that I could still get pregnant but that it would be a long and hard journey. When you are not menstruating every month, this means that you are not ovulating when you are supposed to. Regular cycles have ovulation on or around day 14 of your cycle. However, if you do not have regular periods, this may not occur until later in the cycle.
I did end up going through several years of fertility treatments to conceive our first child. However, our second little guy was a complete surprise and not planned at all. Not that he wasn’t wanted, I had just decided I didn’t wish to go through the fertility treatments again.
The two most common hormonal imbalances for women with PCOS are acne and hirsutism. There are other symptoms, but these are the ones I’ve noticed not only with me but with several other women I know with PCOS.
Acne is pretty self-explanatory. Adults do get it, however, with PCOS it doesn’t necessarily mean just on your face. You can also get acne on your chest and back. Thankfully for me, it was mostly on my face and wasn’t too bad.
Hirsutism is having male pattern hair growth; facial hair or hair on other parts of your body that women normally don’t get it. For me, I have it on my face, stomach, and a few other annoying locations. But I also have excess hair growth on my arms; it’s just thicker than it normally is on women.
This is the part that is newer to me. In my younger years, I was not looked at as someone with PCOS because I was skinny. Most women are considered overweight and even obese. For me, this symptom didn’t come until after I had Thaddeus and has only gotten worse.
Insulin Resistance is another very common symptom for women with PCOS and again something that has just recently come to light for me, although I think I’ve had it much longer I just wasn’t tested for it. One of the side effects of being insulin resistant is that you are always tired (Fatigue) and this is something I have always felt. No matter how much sleep I get. I was pretty much just diagnosed with this symptom this month, and I’m still working on a solution for this because being insulin resistant can then turn into Type 2 Diabetes! The problem is doctors don’t want to treat patients with anything right away anymore. They’d rather you first try changing your habits first and see if there is change.
The problem with this is women with PCOS have a much harder time:
- Losing weight
- Staying focused on diet and exercise because they don’t lose weight as quickly
- Usually, they need that little extra push to help your metabolism get a kick-start.
Needless to say, I had to find one of these doctors who’d rather you try to “fix” the problem on your own. To me is being a horrible doctor when there is much more at stake.
**I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet. However, if you happen to have three or more of these symptoms and you have never been diagnosed with PCOS you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of having PCOS. As I mentioned, not all women have all of the same symptoms, and not all PCOS symptoms are always around. Just because you have any of these symptoms does not mean that you do have PCOS.
Here is another handful of books about PCOS that I’ve purchased over the years that have helped me out, not only in learning more about PCOS but how you can “control” it (if you purchase any of these books from clicking the links I will earn money).
- Positive Options for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Self-Help and Treatment (Positive Options for Health)
- The PCOS* Protection Plan: How to Cut Your Increased Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and High Blood Pressure
- A Patient’s Guide to PCOS: Understanding–And Reversing–Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- The Ultimate PCOS Handbook: Lose Weight, Boost Fertility, Clear Skin and Restore Self-Esteem
- PCOS: A Woman’s Guide to Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The Hidden Epidemic
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Fighting Back!
This is such an informative post, Shawn Ann. I am familiar with PCOS, and have a few friends who have struggled with it, but really had no clue all the signs/symptoms. What a crazy journey you have had. So glad you were blessed with two beautiful boys!
Yeah and just think Lauren, these are just the symptoms/side effects I have from the syndrome. There are many, many other symptoms that point towards PCOS that I didn’t cover.
I am super blessed to have my two boys, many women with PCOS never have the chance to have their own children.
Hi Shawn, Thank you for this post and sharing your journey! I’m curious: Among the books you mention in your post, which one did you find most comprehensive? Thank you!
Welcome, Lizzie! In all honesty, I found them all to be great. However, I think PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The Hidden Epidemic and PCOS: A Woman’s Guide to Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome was the most informative to me. They both not only covered PCOS as a syndrome but also talked about ways you can deal with the syndrome.