Helping your Teen: PCOS from a Parent's Perspective

November 8, 2011

Rachel is 16 years old and has been suffering for several years with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Our journey through this condition has been a difficult one, filled with moments of despair. She is undergoing treatment for it now and is “a work in progress.”

Rachel is 16 years old and has been suffering for several years with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Our journey through this condition has been a difficult one, filled with moments of despair. She is undergoing treatment for it now and is “a work in progress.” Neither of us wants anyone to ever suffer as she has.

Getting the diagnosis was a nightmare. Rachel had always been a happy, carefree child. She excelled at school and sports. A gifted athlete, she was on several competitive teams at once. She stayed busy and happy. When she started her periods, things changed. She had horrible cramps. Thinking we were helping her, we put her on a birth control pill. After several months we noticed her mood was getting lower and lower. We didn’t realize that she is sensitive to progestins in the pill and that they can cause depression. Not one of the four doctors we consulted told us this common information. They wanted to prescribe antidepressants without trying to find the reason for the depression.

We took her off the pill. The depression went away immediately. We did not know the horror that was to follow. Within two months her body was totally out of control. She was losing hair on her head, growing hair on her body, and rapidly gaining weight! This was hard for an athlete who had always been thin! She works out with a trainer and one week gained ten pounds. We were all stunned! The doctors were of no help. They wanted to blame it all on stress!

My husband and I starting researching everything we could.  We had never heard of PCOS. I read a book by Dr. Elizabeth Vliet called Screaming To Be Heard: Hormonal Connections That Women Suspect and Doctors Ignore.” I was convinced her problems were hormonal. We made an appointment with Dr. Vliet and traveled from San Diego to Tucson to see her. She immediately diagnosed PCOS based on her blood work and history. I was so relieved but did not realize the rough road we had ahead of us.

Seven months after the diagnosis, Rachel is much better. She is on a birth control pill, spironolactone, and metformin. I am convinced insulin is the key. After five months on metformin, her body is returning to its former shape. She still has frustrating times. She still feels bad some days. I consider her “a work in progress.” We suspect that she may also have endometriosis and are dealing with bleeding and pain. But she is better and I am very optimistic about her future!

The Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association (at www.pcosupport.org) has been a lifesaver for us both. I have learned more than I could ever repeat from the many women who have taken the time to respond to my questions. Knowing there are others so supportive has kept me sane. It has given Rachel a purpose and we both correspond with people daily. My advice to parents of children or teens with PCOS is: be very proactive in your child’s health. If one doctor doesn’t help you, find another. Your instinct as a parent is invaluable. Keep a detailed health history. Do not give up. There is wonderful help out there. Believe in yourself and your daughter!