I have PCOS. I was diagnosed with PCOS two years ago after showing symptoms for the past 13. A lot of doctors today still don't fully understand this syndrome and very few know how to properly treat it. Do you know what PCOS is? 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have it. There's no one test a doctor can do to be able to detect it, its a culmination of symptoms, signs, and blood tests. It took 13 years for a doctor to realize I had it, absolutely heart wrenching.

My PCOS (that I didn't know I had) was manageable until I got pregnant with my son. They told me it was a miracle I got pregnant at all, it happened after I lost 10 lbs from the joy and excitement of being with my husband. The last gyno said the loss of 10 lbs caused me to ovulate and Whalah! 9 months later I had a bouncing baby boy. He's 4 years old now and and I haven't been able to ovulate on my own since. Between his birth and now I went through roughly 10 Gyno's, none of them could figure out why I wasn't having periods, why I had periods for 4, 5, 6 months on end. None could figure out why I wasn't getting pregnant.

One doctor recommend an IUD after I gave birth- I had her insert it (which she did incorrectly) and suffered through 5 months of constant bleeding after sex, discomfort, and pain whenever I'd run or have sex with my husband. It caused scarring on my cervix because it shifted. The Gyno that implanted it told me it looked good at my 6 week check-up, that it wasn't the cause of my discomfort but that my dropped cervix was (apparently it dropped after giving birth she said). After she was fired from the hospital I went to another Gyno who said it wasn't where it should have been and removed it that day. A year following the removal of my IUD I was numb, I couldn't feel anything during sex. We'd fuck and either there would be pain or nothing at all. I hated my body and reverted into myself, we never discussed sex and it was a miracle if we had it at all.

We were transferred to a new state which meant different health care, military health care. I had gained 50 lbs, we couldn't figure out why, I also was losing the hair on my head and had hair growing on my face. I was lethargic, I was depressed, and I still couldn't get pregnant. The doctor the military assigned to me was a train wreck. I went to her crying- saying we've been trying for 2 years now to have a baby, saying I had to bleach the hair on my face and arms because it came in so thick. She told me it was NORMAL. Normal for whom? She told me all the constant vaginal/ovarian pain was in my head and that the period I had been having for 4 months was normal after not having one for 6 months. Instead of asking if I wanted to run blood tests she said to me: "Gurrrl, you don't need to be bleaching no hair!" I left then and there and had my husband plead with our shitty health care to send me to another one of their ridiculous military doctors, anyone but her, I didn't care.

The next doctor took one look at me and gave me my official diagnosis- weight gain? Hair loss? Type 2 diabetes? Depression? Weight around your middle? Inability to get pregnant? Absent and prolonged periods? Cystic clusters on your ovaries? You have PCOS. He recommended a Gyno at the hospital the next town over and I went. I had an ultrasound- it revealed that I wasn't ovulating, had exuberant endometrial hyperplasia (that looked abnormal with the possibility of being endometrial cancer), and an enlarged endometrial stripe. Their recommendation? Birth control. They started me on the Patch. Those had to have been the most painful periods I ever had but the important thing was that it did bring my period back. They gave me birth control while I was in the middle of trying to conceive- apparently, they said this would kick start my ovaries and get me ovulating. It never did. I even tried the Ring (which was actually a great birth control), Yaz, Yasmin, and Ortho-Tri lo. None of these helped me to ovulate, none of these helped me to get pregnant. They then threw Metformin at me to control my blood sugars and Clomid to help me ovulate- nothing worked. At that point I threw up my hands and figured if there was a God or Goddess up there maybe she'd make my life a little easier and give me a miracle.

Two years later and I'm still not pregnant. I've dealt with a year's worth of pain, the occasional inability to have sex due to that pain- whether caused by cysts or a twisted ovary. I've also dealt with the emotional pain from losing a little of the intimacy in my relationship and the inability to welcome a second child into my life. Our health care won't pay for an IUI or IVF, they don't even have any reproductive endocrinologists in the area. PCOS is a catch 22- it causes you to gain weight but it hinders you from being able to lose weight. However, the light in the darkness is that by losing 10% of your body weight, you have a shot at ovulating. I'm trying my best because the only one that controls my destiny is me. Between praying I get pregnant and praying I don't get cancer I'm left pretty exhausted. My sex life will never be the same.

What is PCOS? (cited from 4women.gov)

Polycystic (pah-lee-SIS-tik) ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. With PCOS, women typically have:

  • high levels of androgens (AN-druh-junz). These are sometimes called male hormones, although females also make them.
  • missed or irregular periods
  • many small cysts (sists) in their ovaries. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs.
PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.

The ovaries are two small organs, one on each side of a woman's uterus. A woman's ovaries have follicles, which are tiny sacs filled with liquid that hold the eggs. These sacs also are called cysts. Each month about 20 eggs start to mature, but usually only one matures fully. As this one egg grows, the follicle accumulates fluid in it. When that egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release it. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube for fertilization. When the single egg leaves the follicle, ovulation takes place.

In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn't make all of the hormones it needs for any of the eggs to fully mature. Follicles may start to grow and build up fluid. But no one follicle becomes large enough. Instead, some follicles may remain as cysts. Since no follicle becomes large enough and no egg matures or is released, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman's menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Plus, the cysts make male hormones, which also prevent ovulation.

Not all women with PCOS share the same symptoms. These are some of the symptoms of PCOS:
  • infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods, and/or irregular bleeding
  • infertility (not able to get pregnant) because of not ovulating
  • increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes—a condition called hirsutism (HER-suh-tiz-um)
  • ovarian cysts
  • acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • weight gain or obesity, usually carrying extra weight around the waist
  • insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • pelvic pain
  • anxiety or depression due to appearance and/or infertility
  • sleep apnea—excessive snoring and times when breathing stops while asleep
If you have PCOS, you may also be at increased risk for a liver disease called NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). NAFLD is also linked to insulin resistant and metabolic syndrome.


Because there is no cure for PCOS, it needs to be managed to prevent problems. Treatment goals are based on your symptoms, whether or not you want to become pregnant, and lowering your chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. Many women will need a combination of treatments to meet these goals. Some treatments for PCOS include:

Birth control pills. For women who don't want to become pregnant, birth control pills can control menstrual cycles, reduce male hormone levels, and help to clear acne. However, the menstrual cycle will become abnormal again if the pill is stopped. Women may also think about taking a pill that only has progesterone, like Provera®, to control the menstrual cycle and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. (See Does polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) put women at risk for other health problems?) But progesterone alone does not help reduce acne and hair growth.

Diabetes medications. The medicine metformin (Glucophage®) is used to treat type 2 diabetes. It also has been found to help with PCOS symptoms, although it is not FDA-approved for this use. Metformin affects the way insulin controls blood glucose (sugar) and lowers testosterone production. Abnormal hair growth will slow down, and ovulation may return after a few months of use. Recent research has shown metformin to have other positive effects, such as decreased body mass and improved cholesterol levels. Metformin will not cause a person to become diabetic.

Fertility medications. Lack of ovulation is usually the reason for fertility problems in women with PCOS. Several medications that stimulate ovulation can help women with PCOS become pregnant. Even so, other reasons for infertility in both the woman and man should be ruled out before fertility medications are used. Also, there is an increased risk for multiple births (twins, triplets) with fertility medications. For most patients, clomiphene citrate (Clomid®, Serophene®) is the first choice therapy to stimulate ovulation. If this fails, metformin taken with clomiphene is usually tried. When metformin is taken along with fertility medications, it may help women with PCOS ovulate on lower doses of medication. Gonadotropins (goe-NAD-oh-troe-pins) also can be used to stimulate ovulation. These are given as shots. But gonadotropins are more expensive and there are greater chances of multiple births compared to clomiphene. Another option is in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF offers the best chance of becoming pregnant in any one cycle and gives doctors better control over the chance of multiple births. But, IVF is very costly.

Medicine for increased hair growth or extra male hormones. Medicines called anti-androgens may reduce hair growth and clear acne. Spironolactone (speer-on-oh-lak-tone) (Aldactone®), first used to treat high blood pressure, has been shown to reduce the impact of male hormones on hair growth in women. Finasteride (Propecia®), a medicine taken by men for hair loss, has the same effect. Anti-androgens often are combined with oral contraceptives.
Vaniqa® cream also reduces facial hair in some women. Other treatments such as laser hair removal or electrolysis work well at getting rid of hair in some women. A woman with PCOS can also take hormonal treatment to keep new hair from growing.

Surgery. "Ovarian drilling" is a surgery that brings on ovulation. It is sometimes used when a woman does not respond to fertility medicines. The doctor makes a very small cut above or below the navel and inserts a small tool that acts like a telescope into the abdomen. This is called laparoscopy. The doctor then punctures the ovary with a small needle carrying an electric current to destroy a small portion of the ovary. This procedure carries a risk of developing scar tissue on the ovary. This surgery can lower male hormone levels and help with ovulation. But these effects may only last a few months. This treatment doesn't help with loss of scalp hair and increased hair growth on other parts of the body.

Lifestyle modification. Keeping a healthy weight by eating healthy foods and exercising is another way women can help manage PCOS. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Eat fewer processed foods and foods with added sugars and more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to help lower blood sugar (glucose) levels, improve the body's use of insulin, and normalize hormone levels in your body. Even a 10 percent loss in body weight can restore a normal period and make a woman's cycle more regular.

Women with PCOS have greater chances of developing several serious, life-threatening diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer. Recent studies found that:

  • More than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) before the age of 40.
  • Women with PCOS have a four to seven times higher risk of heart attack than women of the same age without PCOS.
  • Women with PCOS are at greater risk of having high blood pressure.
  • Women with PCOS have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

The chance of getting endometrial cancer is another concern for women with PCOS. Irregular menstrual periods and the absence of ovulation cause women to produce the hormone estrogen, but not the hormone progesterone. Progesterone causes the endometrium to shed its lining each month as a menstrual period. Without progesterone, the endometrium becomes thick, which can cause heavy bleeding or irregular bleeding. Over time, this can lead to endometrial hyperplasia, when the lining grows too much, and cancer.

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS
. Your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and possibly take some tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms. During the physical exam the doctor will want to measure your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. He or she also will check out the areas of increased hair growth, so try to allow the natural hair growth for a few days before the visit. Your doctor might want to do a pelvic exam to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen by the increased number of small cysts. A vaginal ultrasound also might be used to examine the ovaries for cysts and check out the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. The uterine lining may become thicker if your periods are not regular. You also might have blood taken to check your hormone levels and to measure glucose (sugar) levels.

Learn more at 4women.gov