Beneath the Surface of Womanhood

How a recent diagnosis changed my relationship with femininity

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photo by Lucie Flagg

Birth control helps to regulate hormones and decrease the symptoms of PCOS.

Lucie Flagg, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Fun fact: I’m a non−sexually active teenage girl on a massive dose of birth control. No, it’s not because I fear the whole Virgin Mary situation—it’s because my hormones are wack. 

I started to get acne in elementary school, around the same time I began to dress myself. While everyone around me had perfectly smooth, doll−like skin, I had pimples forming on my chin and cheeks. Now, nearing ten years later, my acne has only gotten worse. 

The same goes for shaving. My mom first handed me a razor the summer before I entered third grade. I had significantly more body hair than even my older sister had—a trait that I had previously overlooked. 

Once I started to get older, however, these seemingly premature traits became routine for me. As my peers in school started shaving, my early quirks became standard for those around me. 

Though I appeared to simply be an early bloomer, part of me always felt that something was different—something off. It wasn’t until I started birth control that I realized exactly what it was.

My cycle, which had previously been harsh and painful, was suddenly regulated. I found a sense of comfort in my nightly medicine regimen. All of my nasty symptoms were suddenly relieved, and being a girl finally felt easier. 

I thought that I was just like everyone else and that every woman feels the same way. I recently learned, however, that my gender is not the sole factor—it’s polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS for short. 

I’ve had an imbalance of reproductive hormones for many years now, which has caused all of these symptoms. I’ve struggled significantly with weight, acne, hair, and just about everything that is controlled by hormones. 

In fact, 40 to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. I’ve gone through multiple eating disorders and phases of intense exercise, none of which have ever led to weight loss.

At some point, I will have to learn to accept myself, whatever I may look like. It’s a struggle—yes—but I know that I’m not alone. 

It’s believed that one in ten women have PCOS, but only a fraction of that number ever get diagnosed.”

It is believed that one in ten women have PCOS, but only a fraction of that number ever get diagnosed. It’s mind−boggling to me how low that number is for something that has defined my view of femininity.

PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in women. I’ve been lucky enough to understand my diagnosis at a young age when so many women find out far too late. Often, it’s not diagnosed until pregnancy attempts, when couples realize they may never have the chance to be pregnant at all.

Strangely, I’m not afraid of my own infertility. I do want children in my future, but I know that there are many options beyond pregnancy. In reality, many women with PCOS can conceive—it may just take longer. Knowing the truth behind my reproductive system now will help me prepare as I get older.

There’s no cure for PCOS nor any understanding as to why women have it. I’ve tested numerous pills and birth control doses that have helped to regulate my hormones and decrease severe symptoms. At the end of the day, however, my body will always be different, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

Though so many of my traits are the opposite of society’s beauty standards, I’ve acknowledged that being a woman is beautiful in itself. I may not have this confidence yet, but as I go forth with my recent diagnosis, I plan to work on self−love and advocate for all bodies.