PCOS, what’s the big deal?

“You just have to lose weight. It is simple – cut down on carbs, add more fruits and vegetables to your meals and exercise 3-4 times a week. The next time you’re back here, I expect you to lose a few more kgs.” As simple as this sounded, it was a tipping point for me because it wasn’t the first gynaecologist who acted this way around people who suffered from PCOS. 

If losing weight could cure PCOS, I bet so many women will be relieved to hear this! This would end all the doctor visits, irregular periods, anxiety, and difficulty conceiving, among many others. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  

What is PCOS? 

This is a silent disease that many women suffer from, especially in Malaysia. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder condition, and some of the symptoms include irregular periods, excess androgen and polycystic ovaries. It affects fertility and is often undiagnosed. 

Although PCOS Awareness Month has passed, I believe that every month should be the same! Even if it doesn’t affect you, it might be happening to someone in your circle of friends, work colleagues or family members. We could use your support! 

My struggles 

  • My main concern was the lack of information surrounding this ‘mythical’ PCOS in Malaysia.
  • One of the main diets recommended by many dieticians and PCOS nutritionists is a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Unfortunately, these diets are expensive to sustain. Eg: It’s approximately RM20 for a box of dairy-free milk!
  • The main line of defence for doctors is the lose weight strategy for PCOS patients. How about other underlying factors like insulin resistance, lack of vitamin D and excess androgen results? 

The diagnosis

When I started my first job, my period was absent for about 6 months. I attributed it to stress at that time but deep down, I knew something was amiss. 

After my visit, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It usually results in painful periods that will affect your daily life. I may have suffered from cramps but it has never reached this point. Furthermore, the gynaecologist only scanned for cysts and no other bloodwork tests were required.

I could have listened to the first doctor, and that would have been the end of this. However, I could not let that go. I decided to get a second opinion. After running some blood tests and scans, I was officially diagnosed with PCOS in 2015. 

At that time, the only solution for PCOS was to go on birth control or get pregnant. Neither happened. I went for scans every two years to make sure there were no harmful cysts that developed. It’s sad to say, but my visits were not pleasant because I was only told to lose weight to cure PCOS, and my requests for additional tests were denied. I felt like I was at a dead end. 

Fast forward to the end of 2018, I managed to meet a doctor who thought I needed to do some tests because she suspected I might have insulin resistance. I got tests to determine my insulin levels, Vitamin D levels and testosterone levels. My insulins level were on the high side and I was officially diagnosed with Insulin-Resistant PCOS, one of the more common ones. Thankfully, this explained my weight gain, my cravings for sweets, why simple diets are not working and my daytime fatigue. 

I know it’s a long road ahead, I’m still learning how to manage my symptoms. What works for me might not work for everyone else! 

What I have learned 

  • Diets work differently for people. I’m testing the dairy-free and gluten-free approach for now and although I’m not 100% compliant, I see some results. 
  • Be aware of the supplements you’re consuming. Whether it’s in liquid or pill form, please do your research! Don’t just take whatever people are suggesting. I’m currently taking Ovasitol, a combination of myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol after a lot of research. 
  • Don’t beat yourself up over cheat days, irregular periods, fatigue, anxiety or stress. I find that the more fixated I am over why I can’t control things, the worse it gets. I’m slowly making peace with everything that is happening to my body and PCOS. 
  • If some things aren’t within your budget, you can work around them. Eating healthy doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. Purchase items and groceries within your means. 
  • It takes time. As much as I wanted instant results, that wasn’t going to happen. I tend to get jealous when I read stories about how some people get results within weeks while I take almost a few months to see anything? I have to remember that it’s not a race. 

If you are struggling with PCOS, you’re not alone! There are more resources available in Malaysia now, you will be able to find answers. Please remember that if you think you have the symptoms, don’t self-diagnose. Visit a trustworthy doctor and conduct tests to see if you actually have PCOS and what you can do about it. 

Stephanie Aeria is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Stephanie Aeria
Author: Stephanie Aeria

Writer. Loves creating. Netflix and Disney+ aficionado.