September is PCOS awareness month. For those who know nothing about it, PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - a common condition that affects how a woman's ovaries work. The three main features of PCOS are:
Jacqui Garnier (MAR), one of our reflexologists here at Fertility & Pregnancy and one of the founder members of Verity, the UK's leading PCOS charity, has first hand experience of living with PCOS, and here she shares her fascinating journey and how she overcame it.
"Being diagnosed in 1986 with PCOS, or Stein Leventhal Syndrome as it was known more commonly then in the medical field, was like being told you had a rare condition. I was informed by a reputable gynaecologist that I was anovulatory (not ovulating), had mild hirsutism (excess hair growth mainly on the legs), had low oestrogen and high testosterone (a bonus in the gym), mild acne and amenorrhea – my last cycle had been about 18 months previous to seeing the doctor. He informed me quite confidently that I’d need IVF, as getting pregnant naturally in his opinion, would just not happen. He later proved to be wrong and I went on to have two children, conceived naturally. I left the clinic feeling totally deflated and like some weird species who’d landed on the wrong planet. No explanation or long-term treatments were offered (aside from a short stint on Clomiphene to bring on a period – but didn’t, or steroids - which I refused). I felt completely alone. At that time, I was eating a diet high in carbohydrates - which I couldn’t get enough of, developed bulimia, was gaining weight and felt seriously depressed. It was then that I decided to either sink with the enemy or learn about the benefits of a healthy diet and take control, hence the beginnings of nutritional self-education, which remains a passion today.
I decided to post an advertisement in Here’s Health magazine for any other sufferers, with the view to researching the condition. I was contacted by two people. The first was Una Sapietis and between us we decided a support group and charity was much needed. This is where Verity (which remains a national charity today) was born, starting with two people in a living room, with an unspoken about condition that seemed to be relatively uncommon – or so we thought. The second was a journalist for the magazine, Colette Harris, who went on to write no less than five books on the condition and worked with Verity for many years. The charity grew relatively quickly and we soon discovered that PCOS was remarkably common, but was simply not covered by the media. I’m glad to say that through Verity and Colette’s books, it’s now a commonly recognised condition and women no longer feel alone. I had the pleasure of working with many medical experts and natural therapists over the years, with the view of integrating the two for optimum results.
My journey with PCOS was far from easy and it wasn’t until I corrected my diet, exercise and intake of the correct supplements, used IPL to become completely hair free (which was my daily reminder of living with PCOS!), that within a period of ten years, my scans showed no sign of PCOS and remained so. In my twenties, I had regular scans that showed I was heavily polycystic on both ovaries, with the familiar “string of pearl” appearance (see image above). Emotionally, I had suffered with hormonal mood swings that were more than just a mild irritation, depression and the worst self-esteem. I am glad to say that my “curing” of PCOS was successful, but if the lifestyle slipped, I’d develop other endocrine disorders such as fibroids, adenomyosis (a condition where the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus causing extreme cramps, bloating and heavy periods), and a troublesome menopause. Genetically challenged I may be, but without a doubt I rapidly learned that unless the lifestyle is tailored and you allow it to become an exciting new way of life, forget it. Hormones will always aim to rule the roost, so at least take the lead, refuse to be a victim and get a handle on those chemical critters!"
You can book a reflexology appointment with Jacqui Garnier, for help with PCOS, menstrual issues, fertility problems, pregnancy & post-natal, menopause, or for something more general. She's available at Central Studion in central Edinburgh on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Other useful links for PCOS:
Verity, the UK's leading charity for PCOS. You can follow them on Facebook or Instagram and get involved with the #PCOSphotochallenge this month!
Buy the PCOS teal ribbon to help raise awareness.
Here are a list of books on PCOS by Colette Harris, which are well worth a read:
The Ultimate PCOS Handbook: Lose Weight, Boost Fertility, Clear Skin and Restore Self-Esteem
PCOS: A Woman's Guide to Dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Symdrome
PCOS Diet Book: How you can use the nutritional approach to deal with PCOS
PCOS And Your Fertility: Your Guide To Self Care, Emotional Wellbeing & Medical Support
The PCOS Protection Plan: How to Cut Your Increased Risk Of Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure & Obesity
If you would like to collaborate with a guest blog, please get in touch by email. I'm interested in articles about fertility, pregnancy, parenthood, complementary therapies, book or product reviews, local practitioners or classes, and general health and well-being. My horizons are pretty broad, so if you have something you'd like to write about, please do!