Guest post by author and educator Tara Costello
Like many with PCOS, my journey to diagnosis has been a long and tiresome road. From the moment I started bleeding, my menstrual cycle wreaked havoc on my body. My periods would come and go as they please, for a very long time I could go anywhere between 30 – 100+ days before bleeding. When they did arrive, they were very heavy and even more painful. I also had some other issues I didn’t realise were related at the time and despite struggling for so long, the possibility of having PCOS never occurred to me.
It’s now been over two years since I was diagnosed and I’ve learnt a lot about both this condition and my body during this time. In order to get to a place where I’m starting to manage my PCOS, I have spent time identifying my biggest issues and finding what helps with that. It’s important to remember PCOS affects everyone differently but I wish I had access to this kind of information at the beginning of my journey. Here’s four of my biggest period problems and what I’ve found that helps.
I’m pleased to say that my cycle is somewhat regular now; I have found my own normal. However, they are still incredibly heavy. Sometimes it can really impact my day as I’m having to change a lot and I’m feeling quite uncomfortable and drained from the sheer amount and speed at which it’s shedding. One product that helps with this massively is period underwear. I’ve tried a lot of brands and I have quite the collection now. ModiBodi, REVOL & WUKA are amongst my favourites. Period underwear allows me to change less and helps me feel more at ease. Comfort is really important to me when menstruating and period underwear is great for that. They have also completely eliminated leaks when worn overnight and are saving my sheets too!
My biggest symptom I struggle with is insulin resistance. What is this? Well when the hormones ebb and flow without issues, insulin rises briefly after eating. It stimulates the body to take up sugar from the blood and convert it to energy. The blood sugar and insulin then fall. With insulin resistance, the cells in the body don’t respond well to insulin and have to produce more. For me, insulin resistance can make me hungry soon after I’ve eaten a meal and sudden drops in energy levels. After struggling with identifying triggers in my diet, my doctor recommended speaking with a dietician and they helped me make a few swaps. Whilst these helped improve my symptoms a bit, I still needed more help. After reading through forums and scouring the internet for people who were experiencing the same, one supplement that came up multiple times was Inositol. I’ve been using it for several months now and it’s been a real game changer for me. I take it twice a day with meals and it really helps with hunger. I’m able to enjoy my meals and not stress about feeling hungry all the time. I’m also experiencing way less sugar crashes too.
Fatigue is something I really struggle with throughout my cycle, most likely due to the insulin resistance. I really struggle with sleep; I find it hard to get good quality sleep and at night I get so wired. Combine this with insulin resistance and heavy periods, it’s an exhausting cycle. My favourite iron supplement is a liquid one from Spatone; it’s a highly absorbable source of iron I put in my mid-morning juice to combat energy crashes and intense mid-afternoon slumps.
One thing nobody tells you about PCOS is just how isolating a condition it can be. In my experience, most GPs don’t have a great understanding of it and most people think it’s just a bad period. At the beginning of my journey, I found it really hard to articulate exactly what I was feeling or what was happening to my body. It’s really easy to feel frustrated and shut off from the rest of the world when you’re struggling with PCOS. Connecting with a community of others through social media as well as volunteering with Verity has been an illuminating experience for me. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re alone in this and talking to people who are experiencing similar or just get it has been transformative for me.
Tara (she/her) is a writer and educator who has been talking frankly and writing about menstruation for more than a decade. Her debut book Red Moon Gang: An Inclusive Guide To Periods is out now. Follow her on Instagram @redmoongang.