Birth control is the go-to for many primary care physicians treating patients with PCOS, and unfortunately, sometimes that’s where treatment begins and ends. For Allara patient Kelly C, birth control had been her method of managing PCOS for 20 years, so when she experienced multiple pulmonary embolisms (a result of a blood vessel in your lungs being blocked by a blood clot), she was extremely worried. Kelly already felt her body was out of control; if medication was no longer an option, how would she manage symptoms that already felt unmanageable?
Since then, Kelly has signed up to Allara in order to leverage more holistic solutions that take into account her physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. We spoke with Kelly to discuss the role of birth control in managing her PCOS, what non-hormonal solutions she’s now exploring, and her recent mindset shift when it comes to handling the twists and turns of PCOS.
What is your story with PCOS?
My PCOS diagnosis came when I was around 18 years old. It was very obvious something was going on from an early age; I got my period very early (aged 11), my hair began to thin, I had excess hair on my face, and my acne didn’t respond to treatments. I was tested for multiple different conditions, but doctors still weren’t sure what the problem was.
It wasn’t until I went to my first gynecologist appointment and received an internal ultrasound that the doctor saw not only current cysts on my ovaries, but evidence of ruptured cysts (twice the size they should have been). I was then diagnosed with PCOS; that was 2 decades ago, and from the outset the treatment recommended to me by doctors was to go on birth control.
How long have you been an Allara patient?
I’ve been with Allara since late-winter of 2022.
It was in January that I was admitted to the hospital with chest and side pain that made it difficult to breathe (this turned out to be multiple pulmonary embolisms), and that was when doctors found the clots in my lungs were caused by my birth control. All of a sudden, I was told I could not take birth control anymore, even though it was the primary means of me handling my PCOS. That’s when I reached out to Allara for a consultation - I knew I needed another treatment method.
For you, what’s the biggest struggle of PCOS?
The physical symptoms have been really hard - hair loss, acne, weight gain, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and GI problems have all persisted over the years. But the part I struggle with most is feeling helpless: I’ve never known what it’s like to be in control of what my body will do on a day-to-day basis. Everything I’ve tried, from dieting, to stress management, to exercise, it has all felt futile, because my body doesn’t respond to it. That lack of change has affected me not only psychologically but emotionally, too.
What made you sign up for Allara over any other service?
From day one, I’ve received the reassurance that these things I’m experiencing - hair loss, stress, acne, bloating - it’s not all in my head. More so than this validation of having a group of people immediately believe me, is the knowledge that they’re taking what I’m telling them and they’re using it as information to make me understand my body better and respond to what it really needs. Thanks to Allara, I have more confidence that there are good things ahead.
What are the biggest changes you’ve made since joining Allara?
By far, the biggest changes I’ve made have been to my diet.
I’ve worked with my Allara specialist and my dietitian to put more emphasis on eating whole foods, focus on consuming more healthy options, and getting creative with what I decide to put together for my meals. I was already a picky eater because of my stomach issues, and I felt limited by that - but now I feel empowered that what I’m eating is helping my PCOS, not a downside of having it. Now I view food as something that can be used to feel better in my body.
Has your experience with Allara been different to your experience with traditional healthcare?
Definitely! I no longer feel like I go into appointments needing to fight to be heard, or to convince someone that what I’m experiencing is real. My Allara doctor and dietitian are extremely comforting, and I know they believe what I have to say. Also, there’s always a focus on finding a solution to my problem. It may take multiple blood tests or trial and error to get there, but they’re just as invested as I am in making sure that I don’t have to live in discomfort.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
You have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Before anything else, your physical, emotional, and mental health need to be a priority. I know this is easier said than done, especially when you have a million things going on, but when you put yourself first, it’s liberating and has such an outsized positive impact on your life. I recommend everyone try it, even in small ways, and see how much better you feel not putting your needs on the backburner all the time.