My first thought whenever I’m diagnosed with a new illness is Did I cause this? Of course, the answer is almost always, No. However, with my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), there is a lingering feeling that I my own actions lead to me developing this condition.
I found out that I had PCOS following a routine ultrasound to investigate my chronic pelvic pain. The pains started after I’d stopped taking a progesterone only contraceptive. When my periods came back, they were very light and dis-proportionally painful; which was very different to how they’d been before I’d started taking the pill. Previously, I had a regular 28-day cycle with a moderate to heavy flow with normal levels of menstrual cramps. My blood tests also showed that I had very low levels of progesterone. I knew that PCOS was a listed side effect of the medication that I had been taking, but I did not think twice about it as I was a teenager when I started taking it any my only priory was preventing myself from becoming a teen mum. (It is important to note that this is a rare side effect of this particular contraceptive pill).
The gynaecologist that I saw was unhelpful. He was not concerned about my condition because I was only 23 at the time. He brushed my PCOS off as no big deal, even though it can lead to fertility problems. I was told that over time my periods would return to normal and my fertility would not be compromised. Three years later, I still have very light periods and severe pelvic pain. My other symptoms include hair loss, acne and fluid retention. I have tried the PCOS diet, but that did not help me. I have not been offered any treatment to help me with my PCOS symptoms other than strong painkillers.
I am now approaching the stage of my life where my husband and I would like to start trying for a baby. My PCOS casts a dark cloud over what should be a happy and exciting time in my life. I know that my progesterone levels are currently too low to support a pregnancy and I do not ovulate every month. If I could go back in time, I would tell my teenage self to carefully consider the side effects of the contraceptive before taking it. There are many other options available such as the implant or IUD.
Did I cause my PCOS?
Fundamentally, I do not think that I caused myself this illness. However, I do think that the prescribing doctor should have been more upfront at the time over the possible side effects of the medication so that I could have made a more informed decision. Whenever you’re prescribed a new medication, it is important to weigh up the benefits and possible side effects with your doctor before taking it.