Home » PCOS

Category: PCOS

Traveling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: 5 Tips For The Road

Plane, train or the old-fashioned road trip — you name it, I’ve done it.

You’ve heard the old saying before that travel isn’t about the destination, but the journey. I don’t know who said that, but that’s not always true. Sometimes the journey is a long one.

A VERY long one.

And the only saving grace of holding is there is knowing the destination isn’t that far off.

This is applicable to everyone, of course. But traveling while keeping PCOS symptoms under control can be a challenge.

If you’ve got a trip planned soon or thinking about traveling down the road, I encourage you to implement these five tips to make your travels (and you!) as comfortable as possible.

Note: The tips used are direct counters to the most common PCOS symptoms that would pose a problem while on the go.

Get Some Sleep.

This is probably the most important factor in enjoying your trip. Yet, I’ve noticed it’s the first thing that people compromise on.

“I’ll just get some sleep while I’m on the road.” Sound familiar?

For the average person, this may very well be a viable solution to make up for missed sleep. But when women with PCOS may suffer from fatigue on a daily basis anyway, gearing up for a road trip on an empty tank isn’t the right move. If anything, doing your best to ensure a good night’s rest is the first step to pleasant travels.

Take it from me. I set out on a cross-country road trip with my husband two years ago. I was so excited and nervous (I’d never done anything like it up until that point) that I only got about four hours of sleep. Long story short, I was exhausted for most of the day and I even had headaches. It wasn’t fun.

I know it might be difficult to calm yourself enough to get it a solid eight hours if you have an exotic vacation planned for the next day.

Try.

Make your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Put away all electronic devices (yes, that includes your phone!)

If you drink calming, bedtime teas, brew a cup and enjoy shortly before bed.

Do whatever you need to start the day fully energized and ready to go.

 

Remember Your Multivitamins/Medication.

We’ve all left that one pair of shoes at home that we fully intended to pack and wear on vacation. On my end, the forgetfulness has extended to more important items, like my multivitamins and even some of the PCOS-related medications I’ve taken over the years.

As you know, women with PCOS and our experience vary wildly. Some of only take multivitamins for an extra boost in energy when we’re sluggish; others, like me, have to take them every day.

It’s normal to flit about the house while you’re packing. It’s also normal to forget an item or two. That’s why I suggest writing a quick post-it note somewhere visible in your house reminding you to take any medications or multivitamins you have with you. This way, you won’t have to check your purse on the road, then realize you left them in the medicine cabinet at home!

 

Pack Snacks & Meals.

Eating on the road is a sticky situation.

Driving? You’ve got gas station/pit stop fare to choose from on small stops. And if you’ve settled in for the night, there’s likely a glut of drive-thru choices that aren’t the most nutritious.

Plane and train fare have the potential to be about the same. And even if you’re lucky to find something acceptable to you, it may be a bit overpriced for the offering.

Colette Harris and Theresa Cheung’s  The Ultimate PCOS Handbook does an amazing job in explaining why women with PCOS eating preservative-laden foods can exacerbate symptoms related to missed menstrual cycles, low energy levels and more. Guess what most of the food you’ll find on the road will have?

Yep. Preservatives.

If you’re on a lengthy train or car ride, I can’t stress enough how packing your own snacks or meals will come in handy. You’ll come to find that I’m not a fan of telling women with PCOS to follow any particular diet since we’re all different, but think of your favorite foods and snacks that fall under your diet guidelines and pack accordingly.  You’ll save yourself unnecessary calories, additives and maybe even a few bucks.

Stay Hydrated & Moisturized.

This is another tip that works for anyone but really hits home for women with PCOS.

If you’ve got skin sensitivities (prone to acne, dry or oily skin, etc) or dandruff, moisturizing and drinking water is the best solution. For instance, my forehead and cheeks tend to get oily, yet my nose is often dry and I also have dandruff.

When I don’t drink enough water, my face gets oilier, my nose drier and my dandruff becomes a big problem.

Staying hydrated is critical for, well, everything. It’s also easy to pass up when you’re on the road or vacation for soft drinks, juices or alcoholic beverages. You don’t have to chug several gallons of water, but keeping up with your water intake will leave you feeling better overall.

Staying moisturized is a simple solution: find a travel-size bottle of your favorite lotion/face moisturizer.

Stay Calm.

Maybe your flight got delayed or you have a very long layover on your hands. Perhaps your road trip itinerary got thrown off a bit by an unexpected breakdown or a forced detour.

I know this is easier said than done, but stay calm.

Some women with PCOS get a little more anxious, worried or depressed when things don’t go right. But stress and PCOS are a terrible combination and has the potential to make your trip a miserable one.

My best advice for this is simple: do what you need to do to keep yourself calm and happy. Read. Browse the internet/social media. Chat with your travel companion(s) about something funny. A short nap may even do the trick if it’s been a long day.

Including these tips have been a life-saver during my trips. I hope they’ll help you, too.

 

Are there other tips you use that I’ve missed?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Stay positive!

– Elle

PCOS & Doctors: How to Find The RIGHT One

 

When I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2012, I sat inside of a cold, quiet exam room waiting for my doctor to come in.

I already knew I had it. My energy levels were never consistent. My periods were absent for months at a time, and I’d been battling with excess facial hair (or hirsutism) beyond the normal mustache or light peach fuzz that us ladies tend to get. I just wanted to know what solutions were available to me to make the symptoms manageable.

The wait seemed to take forever. But eventually my doctor, a sweet, middle-aged woman with a heartwarming smile came in. Pleasantries were exchanged as she flipped through my file, catching up on the information a nurse gathered from me earlier in the visit.

“You have PCOS,” she confirmed with a nod.

Finally!, I thought. Now I’d know how to combat some of these side-effects and get back on track.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I left feeling more confused, anxious and helpless than I had before I ever went in!

Four years and several doctors later, I finally know where I went wrong. When you have PCOS, finding the right doctor is so important. So what’s the first step to finding your medical match?

 

Find an Endocrinologist.

All doctors serve a purpose. When we have a common cold or some other ailment that over-the-counter meds just won’t kick, general practitioners, or GP’s, are the perfect solution. They go to school for years to study the human body extensively, so even if they aren’t experts on a particular subject, they’ll at least have an idea of where to start.

But like the old saying goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none.

The same goes with your OB-GYN. They probably have a better idea of how to treat PCOS than your GP; it does affect the reproductive system, after all. But they may not be able to pin down the source of your PCOS.

An endocrinologist is the best choice for discussing your PCOS systems. Why? They specialize in diagnosing and treating glandular syndromes and diseases. Since women with PCOS may suffer from hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue, these doctors are equipped with more information than your average GP or OB-GYN would have.

You can find an endocrinologist by asking for a referral from your regular doctor or your healthcare provider. You can also search for an endocrinologist through Hormone Health Network.

 

Tell Them Everything.

Yay! You’ve found your endocrinologist, set your appointment and are ready to go. So what’s next?

If you’ve gone to other non-specialists in the past, you’ve likely answered at least one of these questions before (some of which are asked for normal doctor’s visits):

  • When was your last menstrual cycle?
  • Have you been tested for thyroid disorders?
  • Do you have issues with facial hair?
  • Have you experienced any weight gain/loss?
  • Are you experiencing any hair loss?

And the list goes on.

My advice? Answer all of these questions and provide any information that the doctor didn’t inquire about. Seriously. Even if it has the potential to be embarrassing. It’s better for you to lay everything out on the table then hide it out of fear of judgment. Chances are, your doctor is a good doctor, and he or she is there to help you.

Here’s a great example. When I met with an endocrinologist for the first time, I gave him far more information on my struggles with hirsutism than I did the first doctor I mentioned earlier in the post. He prescribed me a medication that didn’t get rid of the excess hair, but definitely lessened the density. Who knows if that would have been the case had I not mentioned it up front?

 

Make Sure They Listen.

It’s just as important for your doctor to listen to you as it is for you to tell them everything. Unfortunately, some doctors don’t listen as much as they should. This was definitely my experience and I bet it happens too often to women with PCOS.

A big mistake I’ve experienced doctors make is judging a patient by their outer appearance. They, out of all of us, should know that sometimes the outside does not reflect what’s going on internally and vice-versa.

When it comes to PCOS, women who are overweight may have a tendency to be brushed off a bit more than women who aren’t. Or women who are only experiencing one or two symptoms versus several may not be taken as seriously.

When you find the right doctor, you’ll likely know it sub-consciously. You’ll feel comfortable talking to them. You’ll be content with the answers they give in response to a question or concern. Most importantly, you’ll schedule another appointment in the near future.

But what happens if you still don’t feel like you’ve met the ‘right’ doctor to address your PCOS-related concerns?

 

Keep Looking.

I know. It’s really irritating to hear. After doctor #2, I was about ready to give up. But, in my humble opinion, trial and error really is the only way to find the right doctor to suit your needs.

There are some things you can do to cut down on the tediousness of your search. Try to get a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member with PCOS in your area. And sites like Yelp aren’t just for restaurant reviews anymore. You can actually find reviews for physicians now, too!

Have you found the ‘right’ one or are you still looking?  I’d love to hear about your experience.

 

Stay positive!

– Elle