PCOS affects 12-18% of women of reproductive age and up to 21% in high-risk groups such as Indigenous women. It can be difficult to diagnose as there are so many different symptoms and not all women suffer from all or the same symptoms.
Kayla is a customer of ours and she is also living with PCOS. She is the creator and founder of The PCOS Bible, a community she developed to help her navigate her own symptoms and connect with fellow PCOS sufferers. Empowering others to understand and reconnect with their bodies, so they can support and balance their symptoms. Through her own personal journey with PCOS and studies in Psychology, Teaching and an Advanced Certificate of Human Nutrition and Health coaching, Kayla discovered the powers of a holistic approach combining nutrition, lifestyle and mindset to manage symptoms of PCOS that once controlled not only her life but her client’s lives too.
We asked a few questions on what it's like living with PCOS
How do you define PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal and metabolic condition that involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The condition affects 1 in 10 women. The condition is characterised by symptoms that are often caused by excess androgen production. These symptoms include long or irregular cycles, anovulatory cycles, heavy periods, excess hair growth, acne, hair loss, mood instability, anxiety, difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight and multiple cysts (follicles, not actual cysts).
How do people react when you tell them you have PCOS?
“PCO.. what?” Most people don’t even know what PCOS is when I tell them. When I was diagnosed, I had never even heard of it before and considering how common the condition is, it is surprising that there is not more awareness about it. This is one of the main reasons I started The PCOS Bible, to help raise awareness, empower women with more knowledge about their menstrual cycle and hormonal health as well as connect with people who have the condition so we don’t have to go through it alone.
Did you have a hard time diagnosing it?
Unfortunately, yes. Like other women’s health conditions, endometriosis for example, it can take upwards of a year or more to get a diagnosis. The problem I faced was that my blood work kept coming back “normal” even though I was struggling with symptoms like long cycles, mood swings, uncontrollable weight gain (even when eating healthy) and anxiety. It wasn’t until I took an alternative route and saw a naturopath that I was able to get a true insight into my hormones and support to get a diagnosis. While modern medicine certainly has its place, too often women’s symptoms are dismissed as “normal” because they may be common for many menstruating women. If you are experiencing symptoms keep searching to find a good GP who will listen to you and I would highly recommend seeking the support of a naturopath or functional medicine doctor.
How does it affect your everyday life?
Before learning how to support my body and bring my hormones back to balance through diet and lifestyle changes it felt like my PCOS symptoms controlled me on a daily basis. The symptoms I was experiencing were signs from my body that my hormones were unbalanced, however leaving the doctor's office with a diagnosis and no information on how to overcome this, other than to go on hormonal birth control, I really felt like I was at my rock bottom and didn’t realise that my body was asking for help.
Once I discovered that the root causes of my PCOS were triggered by diet and lifestyle factors and learnt how to support my body I was able to rebalance my hormones and now almost 2 years after my diagnosis I am almost symptom-free. I say 'almost' because PCOS is a lifelong condition. There is no cure, so its an ongoing effort to be aware of how factors like stress, nutrition, sleep changes etc can trigger imbalances and in turn, bring on symptoms.
A positive about having PCOS is that it has forced me to learn about my body, to respect and understand my body in ways I never imagined I would.
How has Modibodi helped you?
One of the main occurrences for PCOS sufferers is inflammation. Inflammation is caused by many factors but one being endocrine-disrupting chemicals. By reducing exposure to these we can in turn help our body to be in a less inflamed state and help support better-balanced hormones and have fewer PCOS symptoms. Common sanitary products like tampons and pads are known to contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals so this is one of the main reasons I love Modibodi. Using Modibodi has helped me to reduce my exposure to chemicals and they have also helped me to have less painful periods as I was using a menstrual cup but found that since allowing my body to have a free-flowing period I no longer get the pain I was experiencing from using a menstrual cup.
Is there a strong PCOS community?
I remember starting my PCOS journey after getting my diagnosis and feeling really alone, even though the doctor has told me it was so common I only knew one person in my life who had it, luckily for me it was one of my best friends who actually pushed me to get my symptoms looked into further.
If you are someone who thinks you might be experiencing PCOS symptoms if you have just been diagnosed or you have had PCOS for years, please know that you are not alone on this journey. There is an amazing community of fellows ‘cysters’ out there who will help you feel supported, encouraged and empowered. Be sure to follow @thepcosbible on Instagram to connect with us!
To get even more confusing, polycystic literally means multiple cysts, however not all those who have PCOS have multiple cysts on their ovaries, and not all who have cysts on their ovaries have PCOS. It is the most common cause of female infertility.
Symptoms of PCOS can include:
- No periods or periods that are irregular, infrequent or heavy.
- Difficulty becoming pregnant.
- Excess facial or body hair.
- Mood changes, depression or anxiety.
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea.
Whilst the cause of PCOS isn’t completely known, it can be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are linkages to family history, insulin imbalances, obesity, and poor physical lifestyle. Unfortunately, PCOS can’t be cured but it can be managed. It is important to live a healthy lifestyle, by eating balanced and incorporating exercise into your routine, as this can decrease the chances of such conditions.
Some of our customers that have PCOS have said that they've found wearing Modibodi can relieve some symptoms and make pain management easier:
"Honestly using Modibodi relieves my cramps with PCOS in comparison to using pads and tampons and I think that has to do with the chemicals used to make the pads and tampons white. PCOS is a b*tch but using better products can help majorly!" - Kiara
If you suspect that you have PCOS, please see your doctor immediately. You may be referred to a specialist such as a hormone specialist or gynaecologist for a more detailed analysis.