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Living with PCOS

Though the condition affects 4 to 20 per cent of women of reproductive age worldwide, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is not given the attention it requires.  

Elohor shares her experience living with PCOS with Document Women.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is a generally predisposed disorder that affects women of reproductive age and is associated with other health issues like obesity, endometrial cancer, and high blood pressure, among others.

“I couldn’t participate in periods discussion as a teenager, because mine was different from everyone else,” Elohor*, a young lady diagnosed with PCOS reveals.

In their book “A TO Z of PCOS,” Dr Vimee Bindra, a consultant laparoscopic surgeon, and infertility specialist at Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad, and Dr Seema Pandey, a consultant Reproductive medicine and Art specialist at Eva Fertility clinic and IVF centre, Azamgarh explains that it is a condition in which the pituitary gland in the brain secretes too much-luteinizing hormones (LH), which causes the ovaries to produce too much male hormone (testosterone), resulting in irregular periods, acne, and excessive hair growth in various parts of the body.

“I was first diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 15 when I was writing my Post-UTME at my aunt’s house. I stayed with my aunt for three months and never had my period, even though it had started four years prior. My aunt, afraid I was pregnant, took me to the hospital. They performed certain tests as well as a scan, which revealed the cysts. Before the visit to the hospital, I had never heard of the term before though I’d been experiencing symptoms for a while,” Elohor said. 

“Aside from irregular periods, I also face long periods. When I was 11, I bled for 18 days. No one knew about it; I didn’t even tell my mum. For some reason, I was ashamed. I was out of pads and toilet paper, and after the second week, I started using cloth pieces. It eventually came to an end.” 

The cure for PCOS hasn’t yet been found because the prevalence, diagnosis, management, clinical practices, and prevention of the condition have remained controversial within medical circles. 

PCOS affects  4 to 20 per cent of women of reproductive age worldwide. A 2021 study noted an increase in the global PCOS incidence rate at  82.44 women per 100,000 population, marking an increase of 1.45 per cent recorded between 2007 and 2017.

However, its symptoms can be managed. Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are generally important for PCOS treatment. Medication can be prescribed to treat infertility, hormonal imbalance and menstrual irregularities.

“Doctors told me when I was 15 that I should wait until I wanted children and that until then, there was nothing they could do. When I turned 18 when my periods stopped for nine months,” Elohor said. I was put on birth control pills for three months. After 9 months of no periods, It regulated my periods for 5 months like clockwork, but I was in so much pain I would pass out and end up at the hospital.”

She explained that being overweight was one of the symptoms of PCOS and she did manage to shed some pounds but explained that the cysts were still seen in the scans after she lost weight due to appendicitis in 2016. Also revealed that she is at risk for diabetes. 

Her family aside from her aunt consists of her mum, sister, and cousin who is a doctor, plus a few friends are all aware of her disorder. She also revealed that she had stopped complaining as it would only lead to more pills. She now resigns and takes it as it comes. This year, Elohor notes that she has only had two periods.

When asked how she feels about the uncertainty of childbirth due to the disorder, she asserted that it scared her when she was younger, but it doesn’t anymore as the pregnancy wasn’t something she looked forward to as it may worsen her PCOS. She, however, proclaimed, “I’ll have children. Maybe not biologically, but I will have kids. “

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