In the last eight years, I’ve had approximately 6 gynecologists across four cities. Since I first got my period in my early teens, I’ve never had what people refer to as a “normal cycle.” Short of when I was briefly put on birth control in my early twenties, I’ve never had a regular period that I could track. To put it into perspective, there was a year when I only got my period four times. Every doctor I’ve seen has told me something along the lines of, “That just happens sometimes.” It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that finally, one clinic asked if I had ever been tested for PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Despite the fact that around 5 million women in the United States (6-12%) have PCOS, there’s been a resounding lack of care around it. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that predominately affects women of childbearing age and can present itself through lack of irregular periods, weight gain, adult acne, excess hair, and more. Beyond just that, PCOS can also be a cause of infertility. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s definitely worth asking your doctor about PCOS—as someone who was only recently diagnosed with what appears to be a lifelong condition, here are some questions that you should be asking your doctor if you suspect you might have PCOS.
Can we test my testosterone levels, even if I don’t have all the symptoms?
No one told me that you don’t need to have all of the symptoms of PCOS to have it. Like any condition, there is a spectrum. I’ve had clear skin my entire life and no facial hair, but I do have irregular periods and unexplained weight gain. When my doctor did my blood work, we made a note to specifically look at the results that might indicate PCOS. Getting a diagnosis is the first step.
What are some natural remedies besides birth control?
Birth control works for a number of people, but not everyone. It was the first suggestion by my doctor, but as someone who has had bad experiences with going on hormonal birth control, I wanted to explore my options. There are natural supplements that you can take to manage your PCOS and it’s important that you know to ask for those options when talking about treatment.
What are some preventative plans for the long-term effects of PCOS?
Two major issues with PCOS are that it can lead to infertility and diabetes. If you get diagnosed with PCOS, definitely talk with your doctor about family planning and long-term health. The crisis of PCOS being largely undiagnosed—despite how common it is—is that it does affect other areas of your health. But with information, you can get ahead.
PCOS can be an emotional rollercoaster, but there are resources and support out there, starting with what questions to ask your doctor.