I was in my late twenties when a fertility consultant broke the news to me that I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and that it was affecting my chances of conceiving. It was the first time I had heard of the endocrine disorder. So me being me, I set to work on finding out as much as I could about it. This blog isn’t weighted towards infertility; it is more the link between the disorder and mental health, keeping healthy and inspiring others with the disorder.
Five years later I did go on to conceive my Daughter after looking towards more alternative and complementary support. There are medical interventions but I wasn't offered them so I decided to go down the "alternative route".
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine (hormone) disorder which affects the hormones that release an egg and in some people it causes follicular cysts. It causes irregularities in insulin and carbohydrate processing. Not all women with PCOS are insulin resistant but many of us are. If you do have insulin resistance, you are also more likely to suffer from depression or mood disorder.
PCOS disrupts the normal production of hormones, which can cause various problems. Other side effects are weight gain, conception problems, irregular or male hair growth patterns, PMT, irregular periods, acne and/or acne rosacea.
It seems that there is a strong link between androgen (male hormone) excess, insulin resistance and depression. Studies have shown that women who suffer the symptoms of androgen excess are more likely to struggle with depression.
PCOS for me is a challenge, I find it hard to keep my weight down, I have suffered from depression, I have had acne rosacea in the past, I have irregular hair growth patterns but most challenging of all has been controlling my mental well-being.
Most women experience some change in mood prior or during their menstrual cycle, but PCOS can be crippling. I am quite open in my blogs how I experienced Post Natal Depression (this is what lead me to train as a Counsellor).
All this aside, there is help and support out there for PCOS sufferers, there are some great websites, charities etc.…
Support that helps me most are supplements in Omega oils, a good all round multi vitamin, Agnus castus berry supplements, homeopathy, getting enough sleep, Epsom salt baths, walking, eating an alkaline diet that is geared towards PCOS which can be found online. Because I can’t process insulin and carbohydrates properly after a big meal I just need to go and sleep. Some days I can be so hungry all day long despite eating well. Being overweight itself gets me down. I did manage to lose 2 stone for my wedding 15 years ago and that always stays with me as a prod!
Practising Meditation and studying Mindfulness helped me manage the anxiety hormones which PCOS produces. For me anti-depressants didn’t really work, they made me worse. That is quite common in PCOS sufferers.
Because my periods are so irregular I can never control “the hormone spike” that affects my mood coming on and feel very overwhelmed. Thanks to my interest in Buddhism, I know that nothing is permanent and it does pass after a few days. Years ago I would drag myself down into a spiral thinking it was here again and there was nothing I could do about it. Now I practise gratitude, meditation, mindfulness, get out in the sunshine, eat well, practise self-care, try and rest and avoid beating myself up.
I recently had an over 40s health check at my Doctors, it flagged up that I am overweight and I was offered an appointment with my GP to discuss Metformin which is a diabetic medication to regulate weight which is available for PCOS sufferers. My GP unfortunately did not feel confident prescribing Metformin so I am waiting to see an Endocrinologist. I'm going with it as I will look forward to meeting a specialist in this area.
I know cardio-vascular exercise is great for PCOS so I decided to begin couch to 5K on boxing day. I am on week 5, enjoying running and have dropped 10lbs. I have registered to run 5K Race for Life in the summer so my journey continues!
I actually embrace the PCOS now as it led me in a roundabout way to study mental health and the body in great detail to help others in my work. Please pass this on and share if you know it could help someone else. Knowledge for me is power and the ability to be able to help yourself is the epitome of empowerment.
Thanks for reading.