health

'At 23 years old, I found out I had PCOS. Here’s what I want other women to know.'

Instant Scripts
Thanks to our brand partner, Instant Scripts

The first thing I remember about being 23 is feeling really tired. And I was always thirsty. My mouth was often dry even though I had consumed a lot of water during the day. 

I also ate quite a lot. I thought maybe it was because I was exercising so much but I could honestly eat a massive meal at my local Mexican restaurant, then come home and eat something the size of another meal.

I had experienced these symptoms for months, possibly even years, before finally pushing my 23-year-old self to go to the GP. I was honestly expecting nothing more than a ‘you need to get more sleep’ diagnosis. 

But then the doctor asked me a whole heap of questions I’d never really considered.

Rikki. Image: Supplied.

"How are your periods?"

Ah, fine. Good. Well, actually, no, they’re pretty heavy. And I sometimes spot in between. But yeah, I get them. Most of the time.

"Do you have any concerns with managing weight?"

Well, yes, I do struggle with my weight. I always have, and it’s never consistent.

"And how are your moods?"

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Actually, I do have moments when I feel really really low, like super low. I often spend time on my own, not wanting to see anyone.

After a number of blood tests and an ultrasound, the diagnosis was two-fold: I had insulin resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Both can often go hand-in-hand. 

What followed was years of prescription medication that I had to take daily including birth control pills and one that helped control my insulin resistance. I also took it upon myself to visit a therapist every so often to keep my mental health in check. 

As I was young and naïve at 23, being told I had PCOS didn’t mean much to me at first. After doing a lot of reading, I learnt that early detection is really important and early testing enables women to identify the condition before it seriously impacts on their physical and mental health. 

This is where affordable and convenient services, like InstantScripts, can make such an important difference in early detection. 

InstantScripts provides health consultations with real Australia-based doctors in the comfort of your own home. It's highly convenient when you don’t always need to physically visit your doctor in person (like when digital prescriptions, consults, telehealth pathology requests, and medical certificates are needed).

So what actually is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder where women produce high levels of male hormones from their ovaries. These male hormones affect the menstrual cycle and can cause other symptoms. Women will often have enlarged ovaries and they may have cysts on them, this is where the name comes from. 

According to research, PCOS affects 1 in 10 girls and women of reproductive age and although the cause isn’t well understood, it’s believed to be due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

PCOS can be associated with reproductive issues and an increased risk of endometrial cancer. It’s also recently thought to increase the metabolic and cardiovascular risks. 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Problems with your menstrual cycle — irregular periods, no periods at all or abnormal vaginal bleeding.

  • Infertility

  • Hair problems — too much hair on your face and body (hirsutism) or thinning hair or baldness (alopecia).

  • Skin problems — acne or patches of dark, thickened skin.

  • Problems managing weight — with or without bloating.

  • Mental health problems — depression, anxiety, mood changes and low self-esteem.

  •  Insulin resistance — which can increase the risk of diabetes-related complications.

You may experience all of the above symptoms, or only a select few. If you have been suffering from any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you make an appointment to speak to a GP as soon as possible. 

I recommend booking a Telehealth appointment with InstantScripts. You don’t have to wait days or weeks for a consultation and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

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How is PCOS treated?

There is no current cure for PCOS, and it doesn’t disappear on its own. It can effectively be managed in a variety of ways, like treatments including birth control pills to regularise periods, medication to manage insulin resistance, statins to control high cholesterol, hormones to increase fertility and procedures to remove excess hair growth. 

I often found myself running out of my prescription medication because it took so long to book in to see a local doctor in my area for a script refill. I definitely would have benefited from a service like InstantScripts where an Express Script can be ordered online and available at your local pharmacy within minutes.

Now that I am almost 39, my PCOS is just a part of life. It doesn’t give me troubles as such but, in conjunction with a fibroid the size of a grapefruit, it’s definitely contributed to my excessively heavy periods and anaemia, which I am on track to see a gynaecologist about. I also had a very tough time conceiving my second daughter.

Image: Supplied.

I still have a lot of trouble managing some symptoms of my PCOS, like weight and bloating, especially after having kids, my once luscious hair appears to be thinning and I have days where I am so tired that I will randomly fall asleep on the lounge at 2pm on a Saturday whilst changing into my swimsuit.

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Image: Supplied.

The important thing is that I know what is causing these symptoms and how I can manage them, this is why early testing, detection and treatment of PCOS is so important for anyone with ovaries. 

Learning about my PCOS has really clarified to me that the longer you endure your symptoms without detection or solutions in place to manage them, the greater risk you have of serious impacts on your reproductive system and health later down the track. 

It's so important to remember that every person with PCOS has a different journey. Even though there is always more to be aware of about it, I feel more at ease knowing there’s an explanation for it all, and having my own plan in place to treat it.

Prefer to speak to a doctor? Book your next appointment using InstantScripts. Not every medical consultation needs to be in-person, and sometimes all it takes is a quick consultation with a qualified professional.

It's RACGP-certified, licensed, registered and offers fully-insured Australia-based GPs.

Feature image: Supplied.

Instant Scripts
InstantScripts.com.au are here to help with PCOS blood hormone testing and their online Australian qualified doctors are ready to help you meet the challenges of living with PCOS.