Tbh I never thought I would be doing an ultrasound if I knew I wasn’t pregnant in the slighest. So let’s back up a minute – how did I get here? And why is someone going to shove up this weird wand thing up my vagina?
I went to the doctors for a general check-up. I do a blood test every now and again and it’s usually normal. However, upon this check-up I started mentioning some symptoms that showed signs of PCOS and he said he would also check my hormones – he also said PCOS can lead to cancers and I just sat there frightened at the thought. PCOS and endometriosis are largely undiagnosed and often not well understood. I’ve probably had these symptoms ever since I reached puberty but now at 23, around 10 years later am I starting to seriously take control of my health and future.
What is PCOS & What is Endometriosis
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone condition that causes cysts to grow on the ovaries (yuck). It also means that you may produce more male hormones than normal. A higher testosterone level is a good indication of PCOS.
Don’t stress too much because PCOS can affect 5-10% of women of childbearing age but few are properly diagnosed.
Endometriosis is when when endometrial tissue/uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. It is a progressive and chronic condition and also can affect 10% of women.
Symptoms of PCOS & endometriosis
Whilst different, the two present very similar symptoms and there are chances you could have both.
- irregular periods
- unexplained weight gain (likely to affect overweight people)
- oily or acne-prone skin
- insulin resistance
- infertility (probably my biggest fear)
Endometriosis is slightly different because it focuses more on pain. It does also affect periods and fertility but your periods are painful and heavy and it can be painful during sex. I don’t experience this. For some, endometriosis can be severely debilitating.
Because endometriosis focuses more on pain, surgery can be an option to consider and I know that sucks but i’ve heard of many people who have opted for surgery to alleviate pain. After all, endo does affect the uterus lining.
What an ultrasound can do for a diagnosis of PCOS & endometriosis
An ultrasound will not completely diagnose you of PCOS. However, what it can do is determine if you appear to have polycystic ovaries (not the syndrome). So an ultrasound is a good indication if you have it or not.
However, as it does involve the ovaries, I don’t think an ultrasound is recommended if you’re young (under 18-20). The particular ultrasound I did is a transvaginal ultrasound which is only recommended if you’re sexually active. Whilst, I also did an abdominal ultrasound (the kind you would do if you’re testing pregnancy), a transvaginal ultrasound will produce a more accurate and clearer result.
For endo, an ultrasound is also helpful but likewise to PCOS, does not give an official and complete diagnosis. Usually people will have to go to surgery having a procedure known as laparoscopy (lap) where a small surgical incision is made. Thinking about it sounds terrible so sending hugs to anyone who experiences endo.
What to do before your ultrasound
You usually would need to be referred by your doctor/GP for an ultrasound. After that is arranged and you get in contact, they should inform you of what to do before your ultrasound. The main one will involve how much water you drink and when you need to go to the toilet. For example, you may need to drink roughly 1L of water an hour before your examination and you can not go to the toilet until then.
The reason for this is so the abdominal ultrasound can produce a clearer picture. The requirements will be different depending on where the ultrasound is taking place on your body.
But my god – your bladder will really be tested. That’s the biggest warning I can give you.
What to expect from your ultrasound
The ultrasound is very comfortable and straightforward. The technician will put some gel on the area and an ultrasound transducer will move across the body to form images. Once the imaging is complete, the gel is taken off.
The drinking water issue is more so for the abdominal ultrasound. Once that’s complete, the technician allowed me to go to the toilet before doing the transvaginal ultrasound. This ultrasound involved a pen-shaped probe with an ultrasound sensor on the tip that is then inserted into the vagina.
Due to COVID or normal circumstances, a condom is put over the probe. You are asked whether to do it yourself or not but I just let the technician do it as I didn’t want to stress over it. It was not painful or it at least shouldn’t be painful. I would say it could cause a level of discomfort having a wand swirl in my vagina (gross). My advice is just to hang in there – it won’t last too long.
You have the results so now what
The results came super quickly. They usually are ready in a few hours but I just had it sent to my GP as I had booked a follow-up appointment. The results were in and I had good evidence of polycystic ovaries. Darn it.
I will need to check in with my doctor soon but it did seem like it was leaning towards PCOS which to be honest was sort of a relief. I didn’t feel completely ashamed of my body. For example, weight gain is a huge thing I struggle with. I gained almost 15 kilograms in a year and whilst I can attribute that to my lifestyle and physical and mental health, PCOS also plays a huge role.
The next step is treatment and birth control is a very common pill to treat PCOS. I was really excited because it could help both PCOS and birth control and I felt more control in my sex life and general life to hopefully lead a healthier lifestyle.
Leading up to the ultrasound, my period was almost non-stop for an entire month which was also another reason why I booked the ultrasound because it was unbearable and I was at my wit’s end. Whilst, i was worried health wise about my non-stop period, it also greatly affected my already non-existent sex life. Like I’ve mentioned, endo is freaking painful and I’m sure most people who do have endo try their best to manage and conceal that.
If you do also experience PCOS and/or endometriosis, I know your pain and your struggle. I know it can be difficult and challenging but I also know you’re all warriors. I think the thing with invisible conditions/illnesses, is people can not fully empathise or understand what you’re going through. You can’t tell if someone has PCOS or endo just by looking at them.
Personally, my biggest worries with PCOS are developing diabetes (PCOS affects insulin resistance) and infertility. Both of these are long-term consequences so we’re in this for the long haul but now having a greater understanding of my body and the condition, I’m doing my best to keep it at bay.
If you think you have PCOS or endometriosis or any other condition, I would highly recommend seeking a doctor to start finding out and finding solutions for you.