When I was in high school I found myself blessed to have really long periods of time without my period (no pun intended). I would go months without bleeding and counted it as a blessing. When my other friends would dread the monthly arrival of aunt flow I was happy to only have her come maybe 5-6 times a year.
In college I had the opposite effect where I would go weeks sometimes months with horrible bleeding and cramps. I finally decided to go visit my gynecologist. I think most women put off this seemingly embarrassing and uncomfortable visit because, well, a ladies private parts are meant to be private.
The first doctor I visited said that since I was not sexually active I didn’t need an actual pap smear until after our honeymoon and suggested I be placed on the birth control pill to manage my symptoms. At first, I was opposed to the idea as my old fashioned mind of thinking felt that the pill was for girls who enjoyed having one night stands and for me that was not something we would ever do.
I was placed on the pill and my periods improved to become light and my cycle was regular 28 day clockwork. It wasn’t without trouble though since I was on my mom’s insurance and the pill was not covered unless it was for a “medical condition”. The beauty of being on parents insurance is that they sustained my medical bills too. As I explained to my mom that they wanted to put me on birth control my mom warned me that with my dad’s history of Lupus and cardiolipen (blood clotting) issues that the pill could have adverse and potentially life threatening effects. Those on the pill are prone to blood clots. I jokingly explained that I already had blood clots, just not within my body but rather expelled at a rate that would make anyone wonder how I didn’t need a blood transfusion each cycle.
I went to my doctor to express my concern both for insurance and with my dad’s history. I was referred to a women’s clinic as she too was concerned for blood clots. I underwent some genetic testing and a host of other items including factor five leiden, Prothrombin 20210 mutation, Plasminogen deficiency, and Antithrombin. Everything checked out and based on my symptoms they thought I had something called Polyscystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a condition in which my hormones of estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to growth of ovarian cysts on my ovaries that hinder the production of follicles to produce eggs each month. I basically had a higher level of testosterone than some men. PCOS can cause excess facial hair, deeper voice (because of the extra testosterone), thinner hair, weight gain, and irregular menstrual cycles.
I was not too worried about the diagnosis since it didn’t interfere with my life other than annoying menstrual bleeding but that was manageable by birth control. I went about my college life and didn’t think about it much more.