Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS for short, affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Of course, the definition of “childbearing age” is completely up to you. Girls as young as fifteen can suffer from PCOS. Even though it’s such a major health problem in women, it’s astonishing to see that there isn’t any formal cure to it.
Doctors will try to cure PCOS using a whole host of medications, from birth control pills to anti-androgen medications and more. Unfortunately, the treatment for PCOS is kind of a hit-or-miss.
It’s very likely that your doctor may even miss PCOS symptoms and diagnose you with something else. Luckily, in the past few years, patients have started to be quite vocal about their experience with PCOS. While it hasn’t really done much to accelerate research to find a cure, it has made doctors a tad bit more careful when they’re diagnosing teens and young women.
PCOS is bad…Like, Really Bad
Perhaps the worst thing about PCOS is that even though it’s such a common health problem, there is no cure for it. It’s complex, it’s different for everyone, and there is no one way to treat it.
In fact, you have to learn to “manage PCOS.” If it isn’t diagnosed on time or managed properly, it can lead to infertility. Worse yet, even if you do go to the OBGYN, there’s a chance that the treatment will still fail. You’ll have a hard time getting pregnant, and it can even lead to complications during pregnancy as well. Worse yet, there is no known cause of PCOS.
PCOS is the Product of A Genetic Lottery, or so says Science
Even though there has been a lot of research conducted to investigate the origin of PCOS, we don’t have any known reason behind it. PCOS affects women of all races and ethnicities. There’s proof that it is genetic. So, if your mother or grandmother had PCOS, you’re probably going to have it too.
There are other factors, of course. Doctors have noticed that women with PCOS have high levels of androgen- the “male” hormones, if you will. Most women suffering from PCOS have high insulin resistance which can develop into type 2 diabetes, especially if they’re obese or overweight.
How Do You “Manage” PCOS?
The best way to deal with PCOS is to undergo hormonal treatment. Basically, your doctor will try to help regulate your androgen and insulin levels to prevent you from suffering from the effects of PCOS. Trust me, you want to learn to manage your PCOS. The number of health problems you’ll have before you’re forty if you don’t manage it is staggering. If you suffer from PCOS, you’re likely to develop:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep Apnea
- Endometrial cancer
What’s more, there’s no proof whether PCOS is a symptom of any of these conditions or if it causes them. So, imagine my horror when I realized that I suffered from PCOS.
My Experience with PCOS
As someone with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I’ve always been paranoid about developing health problems that predominantly affect women. Perhaps I’m cynical, but women’s health in Pakistan isn’t the best. So, at sixteen, when I first got diagnosed with PCOS, the very first thing my mother did was take me to the homeopathic doctors.
To the best of her knowledge, there was no way my PCOS was going away anytime soon, and most OBGYNs in our city simply prescribed birth control pills for PCOS.
So, the solution? Herbal remedies to lose weight!
I can’t tell you how funny I found the entire situation until it took a turn for the worst.
In general, women with PCOS struggle with their menstrual cycle. It stops completely for some, and it’s extremely irregular for others. When I started going to the homeopathic doctors, I was having extremely painful and irregular periods.
It had been three months since the diagnosis and five years of complaining that there was something wrong with my cycle. As it is with most PCOS patients, no one really believed me when I used to complain about it. Though I believe my situation had more to do with the social implications above anything.
Side note, there’s this weird belief in Pakistan that Millenials and Gen-Z girls are extremely dramatic. Although I understand where this is coming from, no one likes to constantly whine about their period. You’ll do it a couple of times; you won’t do it for years.
So, a lot of us Pakistani girls suffering PCOS often end up being ignored because our mothers think that Hannah Montana (I am not joking) somehow brainwashed the lot of us into being oversensitive crybabies. Obviously, this makes the situation worse.
In my case, the lack of trust towards OBGYNs (read: why should “unmarried” girls go to the gynecologist?) and an overwhelming belief in herbal remedies simply made my PCOS worse.
In the years that followed, I had the most horrible time with my cycle (or the lack of it) and extremely low self-esteem due to the side effects of PCOS, which included gaining weight, experiencing loss to the point of balding, and generally feeling like there’s something wrong with me.
The effect of this health problem (I don’t know if I should call this a disease) has been immense on my physical appearance and my state of mind. Since the age of sixteen, I’ve been going on “diets” to lose weight that PCOS won’t allow me to lose. I’ve had the most painful menstrual cycles, which I’ve had to shrug off because cramps aren’t a good enough excuse to skip school for the day.
We’re All in the Same Boat
It’s not just me, though. There are millions of other girls who have to go through this. Some of them, if they’re from a country like mine, won’t ever know that they suffer from PCOS- this is why a lot of our mothers and grandmothers don’t know whether they had it or not. Doctors just didn’t diagnose them.
It sucks that this is still going on today, but the lack of results from years of research on PCOS is simply infuriating. Especially when you realize that it’s so common. Three of my closest best friends have it, and there isn’t a definitive cure. It’s mind-boggling, but it’s simply how it is.