For many young women, college can be an empowering time to discover who they are. As a college junior, I've had my fair share of insecurities, doubts, and confusion about who I am and how other's may see me. Still, these rough times have taught me how to be more accepting of myself and my body–flaws and all. However, learning to accept your body isn't as easy for others. Women who suffer from PCOS can't always control the way their body functions. 

What is PCOS?

cake, coffee, chocolate
goodboyshady on unsplash

I was curious about this, too, so I sat down with two of my college friends that have PCOS–who I will be naming A and M–to get the inside scoop on their personal stories, struggles, successful treatments and any advice they might give to young women who have this disorder.

PCOS, also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries of women of reproductive age. Although the effects differ between people, it's common for the ovaries to enlarge and to see small cysts form inside. PCOS affects about 1 and 10 teen girls and women around the world. PCOS may also increase your chances of infertility and miscarriages. 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

kylebroad on unsplash

Symptoms of PCOS may vary from person to person. However, a few of the common signs you may have are irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, abnormal acne, hair loss and weight gain. There is no one test to be diagnosed with PCOS. The doctor may do physical exams, ultrasounds, and blood tests to better understand your body and the symptoms you're experiencing. 

M– "The first few years of my period were the worst. When I first started my period at age 11, I always had horrible cramps and flow. My mom always told me that my body was just trying to get used to the changes, so I just accepted what was happening to me. When I got to be a junior in high school, my periods would last two months at a time and I would only have a week break in between. Finally, I ended up going to the doctor because I knew this wasn't normal. They did an ultrasound and found out my uterus was tilted and I had about 40 cysts the size of dimes on each ovary. Lying on that table in the ultrasound room is when I was diagnosed with PCOS."

A"It wasn't until my sophomore year of college until I noticed unexplained, on-going symptoms of dark hairs on my chin, thinning hair, weight gain, and my biggest concern of not getting my period for 7 months. I visited my doctor and voiced my opinion about possibly having PCOS. She was about to brush it off, like another doctor had, but decided to run a few tests. She tested my estrogen, androgen, and testosterone levels, as well as giving me a transvaginal ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed a 'pearl of cysts' on my ovaries. Before she could diagnose me with PCOS, we had to wait for my hormone levels to come back. When they did, it was revealed that my hormone levels were out of range and that I did, in fact, have PCOS."


beer, coffee
alexisrbrown on unsplash

While there is currently no cure for PCOS, there are many different treatment options available for patients to try. Based on your symptoms, your doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan. These range from medications, like birth control, to more natural treatments, like herbal supplements. While both of these options are important, your doctor will also recommend making lifestyle changes, like additional fitness routines to help with weight loss, eating a well-balanced diet and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking. 

M– "About a month after I found out I had PCOS, I went to a follow-up appointment. This is when it really hit me. I was told the condition may prevent me from having children naturally, but that if I went on birth control for about seven years my period could regulate and I could have the possibility of successfully carrying a child when I was ready. I'm also taking spironolactone to help with unwanted hair growth. Working out and eating healthy also helps me stay positive and also helps reduce my symptoms." 

A– "At first I tried natural treatments with herbs and supplements. This was important for me because I wanted to avoid taking birth control again. However after a few months, my symptoms were not subsiding, so I took my doctor's advice and started taking birth control, which I've been seeing good results with. Being a college student also makes PCOS a little difficult to manage. I learned that cutting down on alcohol and watching what I eat, especially on the weekends, helps control my symptoms."

Tips & Advice

tea, cake
katietreadway on unsplash

Whenever you're experiencing any unusual symptoms with your body, related to PCOS or not, it's important to seek professional medical advice. It's better to be safe than sorry. Don't let an illness like PCOS stop you from living your best life.

M– "My advice to younger women that have PCOS is that nobody is the same. Symptoms vary and some remedies and medications may work better for some than others, which is okay. It's important to explore your treatment options. PCOS should never be seen as an excuse to label yourself as 'different.' We just have to work harder to overcome certain life challenges. Don't give up on you or your body. Remember: PCOS does not make you any less of a woman."

A– "My advice would be to listen to your gut when it comes to your health because you know your body better than anyone else–including some doctors. Although seeking a doctors help is crucial, it's always important to get multiple opinions before settling. I had a doctor brush off the idea of PCOS because typically girls who have it tend to be overweight, which I'm not. I knew there was something wrong, so I didn't give up until someone took me seriously. Listen to your intuition!"