I am of the 1 in 5 girls and women who experience PCOS. It stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome and means that I have ovarian cysts, along with 1 in 5 women who also experience similar (and not so similar symptoms).
I’m not a doctor and this article is by no means expert advice OR medically accurate. It is my experience with PCOS, from diagnosis and beyond and how I have learnt to manage my period (or lack of).
I’ve had irregular my periods my whole life. I never knew when my period would strike and so I was constantly playing russian roulette with my underpants. I was also the girl you could count on to always have a pad, because you never know.
I went to the doctors a few times, after missing my period 3 or 4 months at time, and I was always told that my period was irregular because I was young, or too skinny, or too active.
When I did get my period (a few times a year), I would have the wooooorst cramps. I’m talking rolled-over-in-fetal-position bad. I would skip school, miss work, spend the whole day in bed with a hot water bottle trying to find any position that was bearable. I even came close to fainting once.
Finally, at 21, my doctor agreed to get some me blood tests and an ultrasound. The results were low progesterone, ovarian cysts and an official diagnosis of PCOS, followed by “strange, you don’t have any other PCOS symptoms, but it is what it is.”
What did she mean by that? Well. I didn’t have acne, weight gain or excessive hair growth. I did have irregular periods, very painful periods and cysts. Yet, I was still being treated the same way as other PCOS patients, regardless of the fact that my symptoms were so different. To make matters more confusing, other people with the same diagnosis didn’t have symptoms that matched mine, or the dictionary definition.
The solution? The sample birth control pills the doctor had in her office. “Take these everyday until you decide you want to have kids, and we’ll talk then. If you think something is wrong, come back and see me.”
There is so much wrong with this experience that I’m not even sure where to start. Fast forward a few years (and a few ER visits and ruptured cysts), later, I am no longer on the pill.
My periods have not yet returned to normal, but I’m able to track them, along with other hormonal changes I notice to ensure my body is working properly without the help of product with potential harmful side effects.
I’ve also come up with a few ways to manage my periods that will hopefully also help you!
Track! Tracking my period has been so helpful in allowing me to learn the regularities and irregularities in my cycle. I try to pay attention to common trends and major changes. It gives me a better idea of my cycle, hormones, the way I’m feeling and allows me to be more proactive.
Always keep extra products on hand. I always keep an extra tampon on me, because I just never know when it’s going to come in handy. Travelling? I take the whole box. This way, even when I am caught by surprise, I’m prepared. Plus, it can be hard to find organic products on the go so I want to ensure I have enough on hand.
- I use organic tampons only. Since there’s still so many questions about what caused my cysts, I’m not taking any chances, so that’s actually the reason why I switched to organic tampons (and partly why Blume was started). Ready about ‘Why Organic’ here.
- Take care of my skin all month. I never know when I’ll get a hormonal breakout, but taking care of my skin all month, really helps! For me this means drinking more water, washing my face every night, without fail, and using gentle products like Daydreamer. If all else fails, there’s always Meltdown.
- Avoid junk food and workout. Isn’t this the solution to everything? Well, avoiding greasy food, excess caffeine and working out is actually a really good way to manage period pain, regardless of if you have PCOS or not. If I haven’t been working out or eating healthy right before my period, my cramps end up being significantly worse.
- Lastly, I don’t go anywhere without Cloud 9. It is literally my saviour. The other day, I woke up at 2am with period cramps and couldn’t go back to sleep. I rolled some cloud 9 over my abdomen and within 15 minutes the pain was going. This is my holy grail and if I had to choose a product to take with me to a deserted island, I would choose Cloud 9. Read about why Cloud 9 works here.
Periods are different for everyone and there’s still a lot of questions to be answered, like why do we even get cysts? And luckily there’s a lot of great organizations out there that are researching women’s health and looking for answers. But in the meantime, it’s important for us to be in the driver’s seat and make decisions about our own bodies.
I encourage you to push your doctor for tests if you feel like something might be wrong. Ask questions and don’t settle for a half-ass answer. If you don’t feel comfortable with the options presented to you, ask for a second opinion. Do your own research, and most importantly, don’t let the period stigma hold you back from doing what’s right for you and your body.
My period struggles are far from over, but I am in a much better place now knowing that I am in the driver’s seat and I will continue seeking out new information and research to help me manage my period better (and sharing it with all of you of course)!
Questions? Comments? Want to chat? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org