Hey girlfriends, you might have heard that September is PCOS Awareness Month. It’s also the awareness month for gynecological cancer and a few other issues that affect women. Since PCOS is the one affects me personally, I’m here to offer a few thoughts on the topic.
I realize it’s the last day of the month, and I’m a bit late to the game here. To be honest, I’ve been thinking all month about what I should write! To be even more honest, I wasn’t coming up with anything good, and had decided to let September pass by without mentioning PCOS Awareness here on the blog. It was this morning, the last day of the month, before I even opened my eyes and got out of bed, that it hit me — I needed to write about the warning signs!
And so, friends, as we close out PCOS Awareness Month tonight, I want to offer you something I wish I’d had years ago: the tell-tale signs, the clues that something might be wrong and you should see your gynecologist.
Top Three Symptoms or Warning Signs of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
1. Irregular menstrual periods
Okay girls, I know that when you’re a teenager – or even a young woman – not having a period every month is actually pretty convenient! Yes, I was that “fortunate” girl who only had about two periods a year, and I didn’t realize what a big problem it was. I thought some girls were just irregular! In fact, even when I told doctors I was irregular (you know, when you go to the doctor and they ask you when was your last period, and you have to explain why it was like 6 months ago, and ‘nooo I promise I’m not pregnant’), most of them shrugged it off and never acted like it was a big deal.
Let me tell you: IT’S A BIG DEAL. Girls, if you don’t have regular periods (21-35 days between bleeds), PLEASE go to your doctor and ask for a hormone panel and find out what’s going on. No period = no ovulating = it’s going to be very hard for you to have a baby in the future. It’s better to get it figured out and start fixing the problem now, before you’re ready to have a family. (also, birth control pill is not the answer.)
2. Extra, unwanted hair growth
This is an embarrassing one, okay? I get that. But having excess hair growing in unwanted places — such as your face, chest, stomach, buttocks, and feet — is a symptom of PCOS. It happens because of having too much testosterone in your body.
As a teenager, I always self-consciously wondered why I was the only one of my friends who had to tweeze my eyebrows and chin every single day. It’s no fun having to covertly bring along tweezers on a sleepover or overnight campout! When I learned that this was a PCOS symptom, I felt relief and finally not alone.
Hair loss is also a common symptom many women experience with PCOS, though I personally don’t. If you’re chronically losing significant amounts of hair from your head, this might be a sign, as well.
3. Blood sugar / insulin / weight issues
One of the major underlying causes of PCOS is insulin resistance, so if you have trouble with your blood sugar and/or your weight, in combination with any of the above symptoms, you should definitely consider this a possible PCOS warning sign. You might experience this as unexplained weight gain (especially around the waist), trouble losing the weight, bouts of low blood sugar where you feel tired/grumpy/dizzy if you don’t eat on time, blood sugar spikes where you feel excited or shaky after eating, feeling hungry again a very short time after eating, or even being diagnosed with pre-diabetes.
Note: Not everyone with PCOS has obvious blood sugar issues, but it is quite common.
When I received the PCOS diagnosis, I finally got answers to questions I’d had my whole adult life. It was a relief to know I wasn’t alone, but it was also frustrating, because if I’d only gotten those answers sooner, I could have been making positive steps for my health — and future family — a lot earlier.
One in ten (some say as many as 1 in 5) women have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s very, very common! Are you a one like I am? Check the symptoms above, and if any of them describe you, please, do yourself and your future a favor and make an appointment with your doctor.