For something that affects 10% of people who have a uterus, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) does not get a lot of airtime. I have PCOS. I know many other women who do. But because we don’t really talk about it, some of my friends and I have unknowingly been going through the same experience for years.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that means, essentially, you have more male hormones in your body than people with uteruses normally would. Often PCOS involves cysts on the edges of your ovaries, but not always. No one knows why it happens, but people are quite scared of it because it is associated with an increased risk of being infertile.
When I was 16, a doctor looked at my bad skin and the hair on my chin and told me that I might never have children. He then prescribed me a variant of the contraceptive pill designed to ‘normalise’ my hormones in order to deal with PCOS.
That’s an earth-shattering conversation to have as 16-year-old. The pill was even more earth-shattering, because while it might have cleared up my skin, it made my mental health worse than ever.
For a while I was ashamed of having PCOS. When you get told that, as a teenager, there is something wrong with your hormones, it’s not easy to deal with. And you also have to deal with a lot of people, and people’s cousin’s friends who know something about it, giving you their opinions. I’m going to debunk a few of those myths, because some of them are way off the mark.
Myth #1: Infertility is the only “real” problem PCOS causes
Just no. Among the symptoms are hair loss (on your head), weight gain, excess hair growth (on your body), depression, skipping periods, increased risk of diabetes, and painful incidents where the cysts in your ovaries burst and the doctors take forever to figure out what’s wrong. These symptoms may not be as medically significant as infertility, but they are still problems which affect everyday life.
Myth #2: It’s compulsory to remove your body hair
Screw this. Just because you have more body hair than other women doesn’t mean that you have to go through more pain and effort. We do not all have to be slippery and hairless.
I remember one time, in high school, some anon on Tumblr (back when Tumblr was a thing) said something like “you might actually be pretty if you epilated those whiskers.” I suspect I know who told me that. And I wonder where she picked up that advice. Removing your hair is an option, not a rule. If you ever doubt this, look at body hair positive Instagram accounts and bask in the beauty of women with full body hair. Trust me, it works.
Myth #3: It’s unprofessional if you don’t wear makeup to cover your acne/acne scars
PCOS causes acne, because your hormones become unbalanced, so it’s a bit like having PMS skin all the time. Some people prefer to cover their pimples with makeup. Again, this is a choice. People actually care about your skin a lot less than you think. Wearing make up every day is an unnecessary burden people try to impose on those with PCOS.
Myth #4: If you lose weight the problem will go away
PCOS creates a kind of cycle in your body where it is difficult to lose weight. But the first port of call for all doctors is weight loss. And, to be fair, weight loss is associated with an improvement in the condition.
But weight loss does not (and cannot) magically fix PCOS. The condition doesn’t just go away. And the condition itself, which affects insulin levels, makes it difficult to stay at a weight where doctors are happy to acknowledge that the problem was caused by something other than being overweight.
See also: eating junk food is the reason for your condition. This is bullshit. Many women who eat junk food do not have PCOS. Many women who do not eat junk food do have PCOS.
Myth #5: There is a magical cure
This is one that most people with PCOS would like to believe. Unfortunately, there is no medication that will address all of the issues PCOS causes in one go. Plus, a lot of the popular treatments have significant side effects which women have to balance against how much they improve the condition.
It may be an unoriginal comparison at this point, but imagine if men had this mysterious condition. Imagine if it affected 10% of men and their fertility. There would be options other than exercise and weight loss to treat it. You know, like medicine or something? Is that too much to ask for?Support Villainesse