Now, I’m not a doctor, but I do have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). And those who know me, know that I believe PCOS isn’t as easily recognized nor diagnosed as other conditions because of its ambiguous nature. This post is to help those who have been diagnosed with PCOS manage it.
First, if you want some background into my experience with PCOS, you can read my post– Is PCOS a fad?
I came up with three key steps I had to take to manage my condition.
1.) Assess Yourself.
What does this mean? Well, every woman experiences PCOS differently. According to my endocrinologist, you need to have three of the major symptoms in order to be diagnosed. Ask yourself:
- What symptoms are causing you the most trouble?
- Do you feel less than a woman every time you miss your period?
- Do you feel alienated by society every time you let a stray chin hair grow?
These feelings are normal, you just have to know where your weak points are in order to fix them.
For me, my worst symptoms are my body hair, acne, weight gain, and menstruation. I know that for other women, they don’t experience all of the symptoms that I have, have more symptoms than I, or experience them differently.
Knowing which symptoms are causing you the most trouble leads us to…
2.) Take Action.
This is the HARDEST part in managing your PCOS. Why? Because oftentimes you feel so put out by what you’re experiencing that you don’t want to leave your bed. Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are all symptoms of this condition. Just know that you aren’t alone. 1 in 10 women are experiencing the same things you are in some way, shape or form.
So remember when you assessed yourself? What did you decide needed change?
I said body hair, acne, weight gain, and menstruation.
And for good measure, here’s a photo of me when I was experiencing the worst of my problems:
First of all, eating well and having a decent exercise regiment can help all of the above. One of the key indicators of PCOS is having trouble managing your weight–even with dieting and exercise. So, why am I saying to eat well and exercise if it doesn’t work with PCOS?
It does, you just have to know that most women who have trouble managing their weight with PCOS also have problems with sugar. If you read, The Sugar Solution by the editors of Prevention Magazine, it will explain all about it.
Even if you don’t have a sugar intolerance– if you have tried every diet out there and exercise several days a week, but STILL aren’t losing weight– try eating low glycemic using the Glycemic Index. It. Will. Help.
Also, try to keep your calories under 1400 a day. You can determine how many calories you need each day with online calculators or apps such as MyFitnessPal. Literally tracking everything that I eat on the glycemic index and counting calories while working out was the only way I could lose weight. It’s this way for many with PCOS.
Acne. What adult still experiences this on a daily basis? If you’re like me, you feel dirty, oily, and somedays just want to hide away from society. I used to have a real phobia of touching my face or having others touch my face. Along with the healthy eating and exercise these are some of the coping mechanisms I’ve tried:
- Clindamycin-Benzoil Peroxide Topical Cream – I’ve been using this for years and it has been the best every day management I can get. If you don’t use it regularly it won’t always keep the breakouts away. This is doctor prescribed. I would suggest seeing a dermatologist, but a regular doctor can prescribe it, too.
- Tanning – I know people say tanning is bad for your skin, but honestly, I discovered this past May that tanning is the only thing that has EVER made my skin completely clear for an extended amount of time.
- Don’t Obsess – This one is hard for me. I want to pick and pick and pick at my face, but eventually I realized that this doesn’t make it better and swollen, bloody skin is harder to cover than having blemishes.
- Makeup – Mineral foundations work best for me because they don’t irritate my acne. I have used bareMinerals and a drugstore natural mineral foundation. Both work fine, but bareMinerals is a bit better.
Ugh, periods. They are a bother to many women. I want to say the many months I have skipped my period were a blessing, but they aren’t. You’re supposed to have a period on a somewhat regular basis. Not every 3 to 5 months (and for some women, longer). Here are the things that work best for me:
- Birth Control Pills – tricky to say the least. Not every birth control pill is the same and they don’t work for many women for several different reasons. My theory was, if one doesn’t work, try-try again. And eventually, it did pay off. Right now, I am on a birth control that doesn’t make me feel sick.
- Pain Management – Women with PCOS sometimes experience greater pre-menstrual symptoms than women without the condition. Cramps and heavy flows can become unbearable. When I was experiencing the most of my pain, I would typically stay home the first day of my period. Birth control helped IMMENSELY with this pain, but when that wasn’t an option I would use everything from Midol, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen to hot showers and heating pads. The short story? Find something that works for you. I also know many women who have prescribed pain meds from their doctor.
Excessive hair growth. Okay, now here’s the one I really don’t want to talk about. It causes me the most grief. Since I hit puberty, I have had to deal with varying amounts of hair across my whole body. I can’t always cover the obvious excess hair on my arms, back, and other less mention-able areas. But, I try the hardest with my face.
Women with PCOS often deal with male-pattern hair growth in various ways – for some it’s thick and coarse, as well. My endocrinologist (and I) have noticed there is a correlation between being overweight and the amount of hair growth. So, the less you weigh, the more control you have over your PCOS symptoms including hair growth.
When I say I have tried everything to remove hair, it’s an understatement. Here’s some of the best options I’ve found:
- Hair Facial Bleach – I have soft, but dark hair on my face. It’s very noticeable. Hair bleach worked for many years to make my hair less noticeable, but as I got older this didn’t work as well. The hair grew longer. I like the Jolen brand best.
- Waxing – You can either get this done professionally or do it yourself. Luckily, I’m pretty adept at this and use Sally Hansen’s Hair Remover Wax Strips (the no heat kind). They work great. It’s honestly the best thing.
- Tweezers – Spend money on these, find ones you like, then buy stock in them. I’m not joking. Between waxing sessions, these will be your best friend. I tweeze every day. Here are the ones I love.
- Laser Hair Removal – I have not tried this, but I plan to some day. So, I’m putting it on here as a preemptive management tool. Please, if you have tried this – and have super dark coarser hair – let me know how it worked for you in the comments.
3.) Keep Going.
It’s hard to deal with some of these symptoms and not have one pill to treat everything. PCOS is a lifestyle change and making changes is best one step at a time. No matter how many times you regress and have to start over – it’s worth it. Whatever your motivation – being able to have a child, having regular periods, losing weight, getting rid of your acne – it’s all possible.
So, with all of this being said, I am just one woman with PCOS. I would LOVE to hear about yours or a family member’s PCOS management experience.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, this is how I personally manage my condition. If you have medical questions please consult your doctor.