PCOS & Hair loss

It has been a while since I posted on this blog, real life has a pesky way of distracting me. But as I washed out the oil mix from my hair tonight, I realized there is one blog post I should be posting, asap, for all of the women with PCOS experiencing hair thinning and hair loss. I wish I didn’t completely understand the excruciating psychological pain of hair loss, but alas, I do, and I send my sympathies to other cysters who experience it too.

My hair was always thick, healthy and wild. Every time it failed to become sleek and glamorous like tv commercials, I would curse my hair and threaten to shave it off. Of course, the threat was empty, and had I known that by the age of 27 my hair would thin to the point of threatening to go bald on the crown, and become so lifeless and thin, I would have spent my time rockin’ the crazy waves and loving it. But I didn’t, and here we are. female-hair-loss

My hair didn’t start thinning until roughly 2 years ago, and being so thick, I didn’t worry at all at first, I barely noticed. But as it gradually got thinner and I lost so much of my natural volume, I began to wonder what was happening. Then came the harsh wake up that it was worse than I thought; a trip to a new hair salon for a new style saw me leave afterward fighting back tears. As the incredibly insensitive and rather rough hairdresser played with my locks, she laughed and loudly proclaimed for hair that looks thick there’s “nothing there”. Of course there was hair, I wasn’t bald. But her loud announcement and consequent stares of other ladies made me want to shrink into the floor. Needless to say, I went home to google for answers, and never returned to the obnoxious woman who was lucky to keep her own hair after the mood she put me in.

Why was I losing my hair all of a sudden? The first thing I could think of was to enter “PCOS & hairloss” into google. And there it was; androgenic alopecia. Hair loss experienced by many PCOS sufferers is the result of excess testosterone, which means we are lucky enough to have male pattern hair loss. A quick google search on androgenic alopecia will give you all of the technical jargon and detailed explanations. But my main focus for this post is one little gem of natural wisdom that I am finding to be a great help.

Castor oil, coconut oil and lavender essential oil. Yes, it’s that simple.

3 times a week, I mix equal parts castor oil and coconut oil, enough to coat my scalp and hair from root to tip, and add a few drops of lavender essential oil. The coconut oil may need to be melted. Mix the 3 ingredients together, and evenly apply on the scalp, and work through the roots of your hair, massaging the mixture down to the tips. Once your hair is completely coated, loosely tie it up and leave the oil mask in for a minimum of 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water, and wash with a gentle shampoo and condition as normal.

What got me started on this technique was a suggestion somewhere that castor oil is fantastic for strengthening and thickening hair, and even has the ability to regrow hair previously lost. Then somewhere else I read basically the same sort of result can be found with coconut oil. So I figured, due to already having both on hand, and being unable to make a firm decision on which to try, why not mix the two, and add some lavender for the general healing and soothing properties, whilst getting a nice fragrance. I have to admit, I was a sceptic. I doubted this oily, sticky, annoyingly messy mixture would do anything other than make my hair impossible to wash clean. But after the first application, I noticed my hair already felt much better – still thin, still shedding, but softer, silkier, not so dry and brittle. After the first week, shedding decreased. After the second week, my hair was thicker, stronger and hardly shedding. And then… life got busy, I got lazy, and I stopped using the mixture, promising that I’d get back to it “any day now, sometime this week”… for 6 months.

Tonight, after brushing my hair and feeling how dangerously thin my hair is after months of wearing it up in a pony to avoid the whole issue, I chastised myself and immediately oiled up my locks again. I am using a volumizing shampoo and conditioner at the moment – not gentle, but I’m not perfect. After the oil mask, a good shampoo and condition, and allowing my hair to naturally dry, the thin, lifeless hair from the day is thicker, soft, silky and full.

I have absolutely nothing to gain from sharing this information – I have no products to peddle or money to make. This is just what I have discovered works to make my hair feel better, and look better, almost instantly. I am determined to keep it up regularly to see if the regrowth results actually happen, and I will update in the future whether it works on that front or not. Losing hair as a female is devastating, the thought of being bald and patchy terrifies me. Of all the symptoms of PCOS, I find this one the most degrading. So this is me putting my experience out there, and hopefully it helps someone else in the quest to fight this symptom.

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PCOS; The good, the bad and the … hairy?

Ok, time to settle in for possibly the most embarrassing post I will make on this blog; listing all of my totally depressing PCOS symptoms. On the internet. For the world to cringe at. YAY me!

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If you have PCOS you will probably relate to one or more of the symptoms I’ll list, oh god, I hope so – I can’t be the only one! Sadly, I know I am not. PCOS is often referred to as the thief of femininity, and that really does resonate soundly with me. Not only do I struggle with infertility, painful cramps, weight gain, but I also get to grow hair where a woman should never grow hair? FANTASTIC.

PCOS for me means;

Hair – lots of unwanted, soul crushing, confidence destroying hair. On my chin and above my lip. Sideburns. My chest (great cleavage but look, don’t touch!). My stomach. Lower back. Upper thighs. Toes. Fingers. Everywhere. Luckily, my hair is naturally light blonde, so most really isn’t noticeable, and whatever is gets removed to the point of obsession. But whether others notice or not is beside the point entirely; I can see it, I can feel it, and it really does make me feel like a monster some days. I cringe when my fiance runs hands over a spot I have neglected or experience a constant state of paranoia that he will think I am as ugly as I feel. He insists it doesn’t bother him, reassures me consistently that I am beautiful; which is great, but if you don’t feel it, you don’t believe it.
Weight gain – I swear, so many mornings I wake up and stare in shock at the mirror, grabbing some body part, and in a silent, frustrated discussion with the reflection ask “what?!! where the hell did this come from?!” Even when eating well and taking daily walks, this stubborn beast that goes by the name of “fat” insists on being close buddies, and smothers me. I can’t tell you what I currently weigh, as I have avoided the scales as a cat avoids water for months.
Painful cramps – during a period the cramps can get insane. But the ones that really hurt, are the ones that appear from nowhere, for no reason I know of, and are literally crippling. I mean the type that deny any relief whether you sit, stand, lay down, walk, swear incoherently or beg for mercy. They don’t happen regularly, but when they do happen, I feel like I have been smacked in the lower abdmonin with a sledge hammer, leaving a tender bruised feeling for a day or two after the episode. I have no idea what causes it.
Fatigue – and the word fatigue seems light and airy compared to the level of utter physical and mental exhaustion I feel often, even if I only woke up an hour ago. Some days are better than others, but the bad days; man, it is almost impossible to even form a thought properly. I usually end up laying down, where I can easily sleep right through for 10 hours solid. And still feel just as tired when I wake up. The opposite end is an ironic joke – I get insomnia episodes too, haha! If I am not exhausted and so tired I can’t function, I am wide awake, for days sometimes, and can’t settle down.
Hair loss (androgenic alopecia) – this is my most psychologically painful symptom. I always thought the hair in odd places was the worst that could happen to a woman; I was wrong. My previously thick, wavy, crazy hair has become so thin and lifeless that I have spent many nights crying quietly in the shower, watching more fall out. No bald spots yet, but some areas are dangerously thin.

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So, now for the good side effects of PCOS…. (crickets chirping)…. I know, I laughed too.

And there you have it. My most embarrassing list ever written. It is a real struggle most of the time to feel remotely pretty or attractive in any way, and I resent what PCOS has done to my body. One of the most frustrating things on earth is the judgement a woman gets when she is overweight, so many people automatically assume it is from poor diet and zero exercise, when in reality, women with PCOS work hard in these areas with little success in too many cases. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a woman by the size of her jeans.

Comment below and let me know what you experience, or if you relate to any of the above. Have you found any solutions? There is an idea for another post on another day perhaps.

Sheree xox

My Intro

I really am not sure how many blogs are out there about PCOS, but my chin hair and the twinges in my ovaries agreed that it couldn’t hurt to start my own. At best, I will help some other poor woman inflicted with this repeated-punch-in-the-face condition feel like they aren’t alone; and at worst no one will read it but I will release some pressure, likely a pressure valve for frustration and crazy hormones. But the usual writer’s block I encounter; where to start?

Well, if someone is bored enough to happen upon my blog, or for the confused women who have ended up here through googling the most unwanted symptoms for women – ever (am I right, ladies?) I suppose starting with my experience and symptoms so far will get the cysts, err, ball, rolling.

PCOS-Skinny-Cyster

It was a bright, sunny day, in a land not to far from anywhere, when a 12 year old girl woke up to find the long awaited menstruation era had arrived; all over her bed sheets. It was an exciting time though; to this pre-teen girl it meant the beginning of “womanhood” and joining the highly esteemed ranks of… well, I’m not sure, it just seemed like I was finally growing up. Somehow I was different now, and being a woman gave me power; somehow, I’m sure. Of course the first task of womanhood would be washing the sheets.

The first 2 years or so were pretty normal. I experienced very little to no discomfort during my periods, and the were usually almost regular. I am not sure what I expected of this womanhood concept, but nothing much had changed – well okay, maybe I had become a tad moody from time to time, nothing that chocolate didn’t placate. It wasn’t until I was about 15 that things started to change. My periods began to arrive later and later each month; 4 or 5 weeks turned into 5 or 6 weeks, then to 6 or 7 weeks. A quick chat with the doctor had me reassured that hormonal fluctuations were probably the cause, with such happenings being perfectly normal for teenage girls from time to time. Fast forward a year later, and the periods were even further apart, with my cycle only coming around every 9 or 10 weeks, and they were becoming uncomfortable. But because I had had quite a lot going on in my home and school life, and suffering long episodes of depression, my cycles were considered “normal” and “not a major issue” by the doctor at the time, due to stress and hormonal fluctuations. That’s fine! I thought to myself, I don’t have to go through the ordeal every 4 weeks like the other girls, I’m lucky! My mother was concerned somewhat, disagreeing with the doctor dismissing it so readily, but I saw it as a bonus, not having to bleed and put up with discomfort so often.

It really wasn’t until I was about 20 that I suddenly remembered one day that I hadn’t had a period in quite a few months; in fact, I couldn’t remember my last one. And despite walking almost everywhere I went, and not eating all that much, I was still overweight, I never seemed to lose weight. And the other problem was becoming more noticeable; hair. At around 16 I had noticed I had a bit of fine hair above my lip and on my chin; but it was very fine and blonde, so others didn’t really see it. And on the small of my back the same thing, but fine and blonde, so although weird, it didn’t bother me. The very thin, barely there “snail trail” on my lower stomach didn’t worry me too much either. But then at 22, the hair seemed more pronounced – thicker, covering more skin, it started to bother me quite a bit. The last year or so of periods, when they did happen, were quite painful too. Not enough to cripple me, but enough for me to avoid too much activity, and for the first day or two of the cycle remain in bed every moment I could. I was in a toxic long term relationship at the time, with other factors that kept me preoccupied, so when yet another doctor assured me going months up to half of the year without a period was normal, I just nodded in agreement and decided I really didn’t care too much. My mother had expressed concerns about it and urged me to seek second and third opinions, and started mentioning a polycycstic something or other condition she found on google, warning that it may affect my fertility later on, but the way I saw it was the doctor wasn’t concerned, I had no plans of having kids at that time, and there were bigger issues to deal with. The depression episodes continued, regular headaches were a normal occurrence, my irregular sleeping patterns and increasing weight all slipped under the radar for me, I was too busy with life to wonder what was happening.

Life got busy. It became normal and barely noticed by me that my cycles were now 4 or 5 months long, and there was no evidence at all of any ovulation. But I just did not have time to pay any real attention to it. “I’ll deal with it soon” or “I’ll worry about it later” were my standard responses to my mother’s insistence I consult yet another doctor.

Fast forward a year or two, I was working crazy 12-14 hour days, exploring single life, and ignoring the increased body and facial hair and longer time frames between periods. The first time I ever actually worried about my cycle was when I was around 25. I had met and become engaged to the real love of my life, and we had decided to “stop not trying to fall pregnant”. We had decided we were ready to have a baby together, but assumed it would happen easily and quickly, so didn’t feel the need to map out dates and timing. Oddly enough, my cycles were pretty regular (for me) arriving every 6 or 7 weeks. I was no longer running a small business, but instead working full time, which reduced a lot of the stress. I had maintained my weight – not lost any – just not gained, and I was masking the hairy symptoms with regular and obsessive shaving.

When we didn’t fall pregnant in the first 6 months, and my cycles started going crazy long again, I finally demanded blood tests and an ultrasound to find out what was wrong. Initially, the blood tests come back fine – normal. The doctor didn’t tell me exactly what was tested, but assured me levels were normal, and advised I don’t have PCOS. She did express concern about my insulin levels, but dismissed it as a weight related thing, and shook her finger at me for being “too fat”. Thanks doc, I needed that extra boost of confidence on top of all the symptoms that already made me feel like an ugly duckling. Much appreciated.

The images from the ultrasound came back, and contrary to what that doctor had said, and contrary to my blood tests, clearly showed a string of cysts on one ovary. To this new evidence, the doctor decided “maybe you do have PCOS, take this script for an oral contraceptive and go lose weight”.
No further support or discussion was given. I walked out of that office completely numb. All of these years my mother had been right, and the symptoms were showing me something was wrong, and I was too busy to care. I went home feeling degraded by the harsh, dismissive attitude of the doctor, and feeling scared; what did this mean, and was I really infertile?

That is when the most confusing, consuming and frustrating symptom of having PCOS kicked in; the google obsession. I googled, and googled, and googled. I would sit up until all hours of the night, eyes squinting, screen blurry, headache thumping, googling the world of PCOS, infertility, discussion boards and for any sign of what I was supposed to do next. The first step, I realised, was to find a doctor who would take me seriously; cue my mother’s GP. He was always fantastic and attentive. The next step would be medication, going by the many discussions online. At that point, I was convinced that would fix it. Something is wrong; take the appropriate medication; problem solved. How simple was that! (Insert knowing chuckle here).

Jumping forward 2 years, and many confusing, heartbreaking and down right annoying cycles later, and that brings us to the current day; 27, still engaged, no pregnancy, no solutions found. If I haven’t bored you half to death, or if you can relate, feel free to follow the blog to see future posts, which will delve into medications, natural alternatives, symptom progress, and what has and has not worked so far.

This is me..
This is me..

Sheree xox