I've been meaning to write this blog for a while, even going so far as to have this page saved in my drafts since last year. However, it wasn't until recently when I had a breakthrough with my PCOS that I really started to put some thought into what I wanted to write. With so many people looking at me in a confused way when I speak about PCOS and the impact it has on me, it has always put me off going into real detail, but that is changing now.
To start with, I should probably explain what PCOS is. It stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, not to be confused with Polycystic Ovaries (PCO), which is a little bit different, although people do confuse the two quite a lot. PCO is experienced by around 25% of women, says my fertility specialist, and so it is classed as being fairly normal among those with ovaries.
On top of this, PCOS can present with a number of symptoms - there are debates surrounding exactly how many symptoms you have to have to be diagnosed with PCOS - which include weight gain, excessive hair growth in certain areas, thinning hair on your head, oily skin or acne, and difficulty getting pregnant. It's also linked to health issues later in life.
I actually suffer from every single symptom on the list of of PCOS, which is why it was so frustrating that I had to spend years in the South West trying to get my GP's diagnosis confirmed by a specialist. The worst issue for me has always been my weight, which balloons and is hard to lose due to PCOS and then makes the condition even worse. However, over the last couple of years, the reality of how hard it is going to be to conceive has also set in, which is one of the main driving factors behind my decision to get a gastric band.
After finally getting my referral to the fertility specialist last year - we are getting a re-referral in the summer once it has been a year since my operation - I was prescribed medication to help some of my symptoms, including my irregular periods.
From the first day of taking these tablets every three months, it was fairly awful. I got mood swings straight away, cramps even though I wasn't having a bleed, sore breasts, back ache, headaches and sickness. They took a week or more to actually kick in once the seven days of tablets were up, meaning I had all the symptoms of a period without the period until the day it actually kicked. At this point, the symptoms got even worse and once the period was over, it felt like it took me weeks to get back to normal.
After dealing with all of this for months, I was so happy when my first natural period in years started in January, even more so because all the symptoms that came with it were muted in comparison to when I took the medication and previous natural periods. However, I didn't want to get my hopes up that it was a sign that my cycle might start to become a bit more "normal" and I was sure that it would be a one off.
As well as causing weight gain, PCOS can be made worse because of excess weight, so my specialist told me that once I start to lose more, I may notice a change in symptoms. After losing seven stone, it looks like this has actually happened. Not only has it mean that my cycles are actually starting to return on their own, I've experienced less hair loss - this has always been an issue but was also made worse by extreme weight loss - my skin has been less oily and the annoying extra hairs on my chin haven't been such an issue.
I'm hoping that this means I no longer need to take Provera and that we might have a better chance of conceiving naturally, which is something my specialist was hopeful about, or at least with the help of medications rather than having to go through IVF. I'm continuing to use Clue to track my cycle to allow me to keep track of how long there is between each cycle in case I need to take medication, as well as to give me an idea of when my fertile days are likely to be.
Even though PCOS still sucks and still impacts me in some way every day, I now know that there are ways it can be beaten, even if it can't actually be cured.