“I have what?!”
I sat in that slightly padded pink chair staring at the doctor sitting in front of me. My husband squeezed my hand as the doctor repeated, “Your labs showed high levels of androgens. You have cysts on your ovaries. You are having trouble with your periods and haven’t been able to get pregnant. Those all point to you having polycystic ovarian syndrome.”
That scene is forever etched into my mind.
I had finally received an answer to all the issues I was facing.
I had just been diagnosed with PCOS.
That day changed my life completely. I walked out of the office with a plan to start fertility treatments, but I still did not really know what this PCOS thing was.
You may have just walked out of the office with this diagnosis as well. You may be looking for answers on what this is, how it is treated, and what it means for your life.
I was not given any answers from the doctors I saw. I was not really provided much direction on anything beyond starting fertility treatments. I so desperately wanted to understand this new diagnosis, but found there really wasn’t much information provided from my doctor or even through a google search.
So, here are some things I found helpful after I was diagnosed.
First things first…
Take a DEEP BREATH.
You were just diagnosed with PCOS. If your story is anything like mine, it took a long time and lots of tests to get to where you are today.
But guess what?
You finally have an answer to what is going on with your body. The weight gain, irregular periods, weird hair growth, acne, mood swings, and everything else you have been going through finally has a name: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Now you can get to work to do something about it.
Do your research.
Now that you have a name for what is going on with your body, it is important to understand everything you can about it.
There are quite a few great websites that go into detail about what is going on with your body such as:
Some of the best books about PCOS are:
- A Patient’s Guide to PCOS
- The Ultimate PCOS Handbook
- Conquer Your PCOS Naturally
- The PCOS Workbook
- Lose it, Cyster
- What Nurses Know: PCOS
Assemble Your Team.
Once you have a better understanding of what Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is, you need to do your research about your healthcare team. Many doctors don’t really know the best ways to treat PCOS, so don’t be afraid to seek out a new doctor.
Your OB/GYN is a great starting place for getting treatment. They can help you better balance the hormones or do initial fertility treatments.
An endocrinologist is a doctor who specialized in treating the endocrine system. Since PCOS is an endocrine disorder, they can be an important part of your healthcare team.
If you need advanced fertility treatments, a visit to a reproductive endocrinologist might be in order. Choosing your doctor comes down to your overall goals: weight loss, symptom management, or fertility.
Join a Support Group.
The PCOS journey can feel lonely. Your loved ones may not truly understand what you are going through. I created an awesome private support group for those of us who have PCOS over on Facebook. It has been a true blessing in my life. I couldn’t ask for a better group of women who are very supportive, ask questions, provide feedback, and are ready to laugh, cry, and give virtual hugs as we go through this journey together.
Join the Cyster Talk Support Group at CysterTalk.com.
Get Involved + Make a Difference.
Despite PCOS affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, there is little attention given to it in the healthcare world. Many doctors have no idea how to handle a patient with PCOS. It can affect women not only when trying to get pregnant, but can lead to many health complications such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes if left untreated. Why isn’t more known about it?
We are working hard to bring awareness to it as a major public health priority so adequate funding and resources can be dedicated to finding answers for us Cysters.
Here’s how you can get involved:
- Participate in PCOS Awareness Events going on here: http://www.pcosaa.org/events/
- Get involved with spreading PCOS Awareness by contacting leaders: https://m.pcoschallenge.org/prioritize-pcos/
- Donate to PCOS Awareness Association: http://www.pcosaa.org/donate/ or PCOS Challenge: https://m.pcoschallenge.org/pcos-donate/
- Get some teal gear to help support PCOS Awareness: The official color to spread PCOS Awareness is TEAL. Spread some awareness about PCOS by sporting the teal ribbon. I designed a few options of PCOS gear here: www.teespring.com/stores/pcos-awareness-with-cystertalk
Make a Treatment Plan.
Your treatment plan is based on your goals. Are you wanting to lose weight or are you wanting to start a family? Are you wanting to just control your symptoms or a little bit of all of the above?
Figure out what you want to focus on first because treatment options may be a little different. If you are looking to control your PCOS, your doctor may put you on birth control pills, androgen-blocking medications, or insulin-sensitizing medications. If you are looking to get pregnant, your doctor may put you on insulin-sensitizing medications or ovulation induction medications. There are also hair or acne specific treatments that your doctor may put you on. It all depends on what you are looking to achieve.
Medications are not the complete answer to combating your PCOS. Following a healthy diet, exercise plan, and stress management techniques are a vital component to treating your PCOS. Some cysters start with the lifestyle changes and see a dramatic improvement before adding in any medications.
Create your Lifestyle Action Plan.
Start your healthy lifestyle plan focusing on three main areas: stress management, healthy diet, and exercising correctly.
PCOS is an endocrine (or hormonal) disorder. All the hormones in your body are connected. You not only have the reproductive hormones, but you have cortisol which is your stress hormone. If you are very stressed out, you could have higher cortisol levels which then can lead to an imbalance with the rest of the hormones in your body. Find 2 or 3 activities you can do to better manage stress such as exercise, deep breathing, massage, etc.
When it comes to a healthy diet, the internet is abound with tons of “advice” on what will work best with PCOS. Because the majority of women with PCOS are also insulin resistant (insulin is another hormone in your body), a diet focusing on lowering your blood sugar levels is most recommended.
You will find fad diets such as Paleo, Keto, or Low-Carb diets EVERYWHERE. They each have a little truth to them and can help you manage symptoms short term. The benefits of these diets are they promote more unprocessed foods and more vegetables. The downfall is they can pose some serious long term consequences such as heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetes.
There is a better alternative and it builds on a diet of vegetables, fruit, 100% whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. It cuts out processed food such as those made with sugar or white flour such as cakes, cookies, sweets, soda, white bread and pasta, etc. It limits animal products such as meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs which are all high in cholesterol and saturated fats. High consumption of these clearly show in nutritional research to lead to kidney failure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
When it comes to exercise, a balance is necessary. I see way too many cysters exercising for hours each day with no results. You don’t need more than 30 minutes each day. I have a little exercise cheat sheet specifically for us cysters you can grab by clicking here.
You can overcome this. Here’s to a healthy start to BEATING your PCOS!
*This post contains affiliate links. This means if you buy any of the books linked to from this post, I get a small commission. This does not affect my decision to recommend these books. They are all books that have helped me understand PCOS better.