With PCOS affecting 1 in 10 women, the chronic illness impacts the lives of thousands of Canadians every day. Each persons symptoms differ, and many go years without a diagnosis. We reached out to our community this month to pass the mic, to share real people's stories living with PCOS. Laura graciously shared her journey with us, shedding light on getting her diagnosis and how she manages her symptoms. Thank you, Laura!
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Laura, I’m 26-years-old. I’ve recently graduated from post-secondary where I received my undergraduate degree in Behavioural Psychology. I’ve never thought I’d see the day where I was tracking my cycle for trying to conceive. My partner and I are planning to start our family in the next year and since I’ve learned more about my body and gained a stronger understanding of the diagnosis, I’ve increased my odds of TTC.
What has your journey with PCOS been like so far?
When I started my undergrad in 2017, it was then when I had my school doctor go through my symptoms and she gave me a possible diagnosis of PCOS. She told me it would likely lead to troubles conceiving and irregular periods–so at her suggestion I went on birth control, the MIRENA IUD to be exact. All throughout my undergrad with the IUD I wasn’t having my period, but I was experiencing very wild mood swings and I developed chin hairs. When I saw my first chin hair, I immediately called my mom. She has PCOS, and I’ve been removing her chin hairs since as long as I can remember. Up until the last year when I removed my IUD and started tracking my own cycle, I’ve never understood my cycle. I recently saw a new GYNO and have since learned a lot about my cycle and how my diagnosis doesn’t limit my chances of conceiving. She explained that since my cycle has come monthly, and usually lasts around 24-26 days, that I’d ovulate on or around day 11. Oddly enough, when I tested the theory this cycle, I ovulated on day 11/12–which thanks to the ease of your ovulation strips I could test quick.
How do you care for yourself and manage PCOS?
Last year, during COVID, I started to read more about tracking your cycle, and the importance of learning how to read your bodies signs and signals. I am much gentler with myself since receiving the diagnosis. I don’t necessarily manage my PCOS per say, but I have reduced my stress and am more conscientious of my symptoms. I’ve set boundaries with family and friends who increase my stress levels, and don’t take PCOS too seriously.
What have you learned about your body because of PCOS?
I’ve learned more about my mood swings and understand why some days I am quicker to lose my temper or not. I’ve also learned about how my body reacts to ovulation, and the symptoms that come along with it. I’ve also learned more about my period and why it’s not a guarantee that every month will be the same flow level, length of period and cramp pain. One of the most helpful things for me has been keeping a routine for bedtime and when to wake up. Even a morning routine before work has been helpful.
Has there been anything surprising you learned about fertility and female health along your journey?
After 26 years, I finally understand how easy it really is to track your cycle and understand when you’re in your fertile window or not. I never knew that different discharge meant different things, which is a major red flag on our educational system for how they teach young girls about sexual education and health.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who has been recently diagnosed or suspects they may have PCOS?
Be gentle with yourself and take your time to understand what your body is telling you. Be kind and don’t rush to the conclusion that you’ll have difficulty conceiving.