Beth talks upon the battles and challenges she faces with her recent diagnosis of PCOS aiming to spread awareness throughout the fitness community.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a polycystic ovarian syndrome and is a condition that affects the way the ovaries work. Some of the common symptoms are irregular periods, facial hair and difficulty getting pregnant. It is unclear what causes PCOS but links have been made to hormone problems. With these being just some of the most common symptoms, the possible symptoms are endless and can have a massive impact on daily life.
Other symptoms that you should look out for, and what I experienced the most, is the awful pain in my lower tummy, constantly tired, feeling sick and loss of appetite. My hair and skin can also be quite oily/greasy, which is another known symptom.

How does PCOS affect your daily life?

PCOS has caused a massive strain on my day-to-day life and as I am fairly new to being diagnosed, I am still learning all about it myself, which can be rather scary!
I have taken the time to try and learn about my diagnosis as much as I possibly can to try and stay on top of it mentally. In terms of the symptoms I experience, they are something I am going to have to learn to live with unfortunately as there is currently no cure for PCOS.

How have you adapted your gym life?

A lot of girls experience gym anxiety as it is, as the gym can be a very daunting place for people who are not regular gym-goers, or people who aren’t in shape like myself. When I was then diagnosed with PCOS, I felt like I was massively out of my comfort zone and felt like it was written on my forehead.
Luckily, having a best friend who is a PT has helped me massively. I have started weekly sessions with Jess and I hope that it is going to slowly build my confidence to get back into the gym and be able to confidently work out alone. I now realise that I am not alone with PCOS and it was definitely a psychological barrier that I had created in my head. I still have daily struggles, but I am learning to deal with them with the help and support of my friends and family.

What made you realise you had PCOS, initial symptoms, etc?

I was finally diagnosed with PCOS after being admitted to the hospital in December 2021. I had already been to several doctor's appointments and scans but was told nothing was wrong, so one evening I was in extreme pain so had to go to A&E. I was admitted to hospital and was finally diagnosed.
The initial symptoms I experienced was extreme pain, mainly on the right side of my tummy and feeling sick. I have always had heavy periods but they just seemed to get heavier each month.
I knew something wasn’t right with my body and when I was admitted to the hospital, they first started to treat me as an expected appendicitis patient as the pain was so close to my appendix. I was then taken for an external and internal scan and that is when they finally found the cysts and fluid on and behind my ovaries. If I hadn’t been admitted to the hospital that day, I still would not be diagnosed as the multiple doctor's appointments prior to this, missed the signs.

Did you change your diet?

Some studies have shown that sugary foods and carbohydrates can make the symptoms of PCOS worse and are advised to avoid these kinds of foods. However, when you have PCOS, sugar and carbs are what you crave the most so it can be really difficult to stick to plan.
Since being diagnosed, I have tried to eat a lot cleaner and avoid carbs and sugar as much as possible. It can be hard but I will treat myself now and then. I am also dairy intolerant so trying to avoid all these kinds of foods can be tricky but you just have to try your hardest.

What advice would you give someone who also faces PCOS?

Don’t give up and try to stay positive. Please do not be disheartened but the help and support that the NHS offer you as I have not had much luck. Since being diagnosed, one thing that has really helped me is searching PCOS on socials which we all use such as Instagram or Tik Tok and there are so many other girls who speak about their experiences which is super helpful. I have also been in contact with a few other girls and knowing that I’m not the only one has been important for my mental well-being.
After my prolonged and awful experience of getting diagnosed, one piece of advice that I would give is… if you think there is something wrong, keep fighting until you get the answer. Don’t think that you are wasting the doctors' time because they missed the signs of my PCOS at the multiple appointments I went to before being admitted to the hospital.
I am currently still waiting for my gynecology referral appointment at the hospital where things will be discussed such as the removal of the cysts, or my ovary and the possible options I have. When I think about this, it scares me a lot and of course, I would love to have children at some point during my life and these thoughts are what I battle with. However, having PCOS has made me stronger mentally and will only continue to make me stronger 💜
If you’re reading this and you think you could be in a similar situation that I was, or you have already been diagnosed with PCOS, please feel free to pop me a message on Instagram if you ever want to chat about anything! I promise it really does help. @_bethharvey