While being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and navigating the subsequent symptoms can feel isolating and confusing, we’re here to assure you that it’s actually the most common hormonal disorder out there. In fact, 1 in 10 women have PCOS.
So, what exactly is PCOS? It’s a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Although PCOS affects everyone differently, symptoms may include irregular or prolonged periods, elevated levels of male hormone levels, cystic acne, hair loss or unwanted hair growth, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and enlarged ovaries that contain follicles surrounding the eggs.
While it may be common, living with PCOS is no easy task. Trust me, I get it. Surprisingly, I’ve found it helpful to learn that many celebrities, whose lives seem wildly glamorous, are managing PCOS symptoms just like us in their day-to-day lives. The truth is that PCOS doesn’t discriminate, and it turns out that Victoria Beckham and I have much more in common than a deep love of David Beckham.
PCOS affects everyone differently, so we’ve assembled an entire squad of celebrities who are managing their symptoms while living in the spotlight and using their platform to bring awareness to this often misunderstood condition. Through their shared experiences and insights, it might help us conquer our own symptoms and ultimately, improve our chances for conceiving.
Celebrities Living with PCOS
The Glee star recently opened up about being diagnosed with PCOS after experiencing severe acne and fluctuating weight.
“The side effects can be brutal — like weight gain and bad skin,” Lea shared with Health. “I went to a great doctor, and the minute she looked at me, she was like, ‘Oh, you have PCOS.’ It explained everything.”
With PCOS causing such an array of symptoms, we often initially try to solve them in isolation. We don’t realize that it’s all connected… until we have that “a-ha!” moment with our doctor. Sure, getting a PCOS diagnosis is not happy news, but at least it explains the connection between whatever health issues we’re struggling with!
She went on to say, “Through diet, I have been able to manage [my symptoms]. But I am very fortunate. There are way more extreme versions of PCOS that women have a lot of difficulty with — mine is not as intense. Which is why I haven’t really talked about it, because there are women who have it so much more intense.”
It’s true. We all deal with our own unique set of PCOS symptoms. The other truth? We all benefit from celebrities like Lea Michele speaking out about her diagnosis. Awareness breeds understanding and progress.
The fitness queen has never been shy when it comes to talking about her health. She keeps her PCOS in check, obvs, with exercise and diet. When asked about her fertility struggles, Jillian opened up to Redbook about the realities of living with the condition.
“Turns out I had PCOS. But at a young age, I didn't know if I wanted kids, so I didn't really care. Then I got older, and I watched friends go through IVF, with years of hormones and devastation and disappointment, and I remember thinking, God wants something different for me,” recalled Jillian. “If I choose to pursue this path, I'll adopt. And when I was finally ready to go for it, I thought, this is going to be so easy. I am such an a--hole. I had nooo idea.”
We hear you, Jillian. It's funny how you don’t really think about the possibility of being infertile until it’s already causing a problem in our life, right? And, even more ironically, some of us focus intensely on not becoming pregnant for so long, only to find out it’s not as easy as we had assumed it would be… Sometimes, a PCOS diagnosis humbles our assumptions. At least it did for me, just like it did for Jillian.
Turns out the Star Wars actress is just as much of a warrior offscreen. In the world of highly filtered social media posts, Daisy took to Instagram to get real about her severe acne due to PCOS.
“My skin was THE WORST. I've tried everything: products, antibiotics, more products, more antibiotics and all that did was left my body in a bit of a mess. Finally found out I have polycystic ovaries and that's why it's bad. I can safely say feeling so self-conscious has left my confidence in tatters. I hate wearing makeup but I currently don't want to leave the house without it on,” shared Daisy. “HOWEVER PROGRESS IS BEING MADE!”
“From your head to the tips of your toes we only have one body, let us all make sure ours are working in tip top condition, and take help if it's needed.”
She’s so right. We should feel empowered by our diagnosis and knowing that there are clear ways we can treat our bodies, both in lifestyle changes and medicine, should we need it.
The mom-of-four has been open about her PCOS diagnosis, irregular periods, and struggles with infertility. Being in the public eye certainly didn’t help beloved Posh Spice with the stress of trying to conceive.
“I’m really feeling that pressure. Every time I go out, someone says to me: ‘Are you pregnant?’’ Victoria recalled at the time.
Oh, boy. The “When are you having babies?” question we inevitably get at every social gathering. At first, I tried to dodge these questions with a vague response and a smile, but now, I have resorted to overt, brutal honesty… I keep that big smile and say something like, “Actually, I’m struggling with infertility because of my PCOS, so my husband and I have been through several fertility treatments. No baby yet, but it’ll happen soon!” This provokes one of two responses: 1) shock at my bluntness and a guarantee I’ll never get that question from this person again, or 2) it’ll spur a genuine conversation on infertility, PCOS, or simply the trials and tribulations of TTC. I’m good with either outcome.
Actress and entrepreneur Jaime King has also been candid about her ongoing struggles with infertility.
“The way that it started was I was diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS when I was 20. And I went undiagnosed for a really long time,” revealed Jamie. “I lost my first baby at that age. And I continued to miscarry and miscarry, and it took many years for me to have my first child, and when I was going through this, I cannot explain what it felt like — that this one thing that we’re told as women is that our gift is that we can carry life, and all of a sudden someone says, ‘Oh, maybe that might be in question.'”
If you’re reading this blog, you can likely relate to having your world rocked with a PCOS diagnosis, struggling with infertility, or experiencing a miscarriage (or multiple). Maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever it is, you’re not alone in your struggle.
The legendary actress has proven that you can achieve great things (um, hello, she won an Oscar) while living with PCOS and clinical depression. After struggling with infertility, Emma underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help her conceive her daughter, Gaia. Several additional rounds of IVF later, Emma and her husband couldn’t conceive another child. They ended up adopting a few years later.
"For years I counted people's children in the street and thought I'd never recover," she said in a magazine interview. "But you do, of course."
Fertility jealousy is a real thing, and not something we should feel embarrassed or guilty about. It’s about how we regain confidence, move forward, and figure out what is right for our individual story.
Model, activist, and Guinness Book Record holder Harnaam Kaur rocks a full beard as a result of PCOS. She has upheld a commitment to letting her hair grow out in accordance with religious beliefs and has been hailed a body positive heroine.
"I had no idea what PCOS was. My doctor said, 'This is what you have,' and that was all I knew,” said Harnaam. “At first I thought I was dying of a very rare disease because nobody in the media spoke about it! Growing up, I found out that Victoria Beckham has the same condition as me, but there I was feeling like I was suffering from something that was super rare."
She went on, "My message to other women suffering from the same condition would be do not suffer in silence. Always speak up about it and talk to a doctor about how to treat your symptoms. The thing with PCOS is that it also affects women emotionally and again it's important to talk about your feelings. If you are being body-shamed, then do not take it. You need to find self-love. You need to change your thought process and you will flourish both internally and externally.”
Harnaam is right. When you first found out you had PCOS, how much did you know about the disease? For me, I had never even heard of it. Surprisingly, though, PCOS is the most common hormonal imbalance in women, so it shouldn’t be a secret sisterhood. When we see other women speaking out about their situation, it provides us emotional support and reassurance that we can do this. We can manage our PCOS.
It’s also important to note that anxiety and depression are both associated with PCOS. We need to constantly be in tune with how we’re managing our symptoms, both physically and mentally.
The children’s book author, model, and wife of chef Jamie Oliver has been open about her miscarriages and living with PCOS. She is now the mother of three daughters, proving that PCOS does not mean a lifetime of infertility.
“Even when I was 17, I thought there might be a problem and that I’d have trouble conceiving because my periods were irregular,” explained Jools. “I was quite quickly diagnosed with PCOS, which meant that I wasn’t ovulating each month like normal.”
Irregular periods are a sure sign of irregular ovulation, if ovulation occurs at all. It’s one of the three signifiers for PCOS – the other two being high androgens (male hormones) and cystic-looking ovaries.
MTV’s Teen Mom star has been open with her PCOS struggles on the reality show. During one episode, Maci explained that she often goes months without having her period and then will bleed for a month straight. “It’s the worst pain ever. It’s terrible,” she said.
“Sometimes I’m like if I didn’t have PCOS, then maybe I wouldn’t have been so irritable with my children today,” Maci shared on the show.
The reality star has since met with Tennessee representatives to advocate for bills that would help with funding and to make September PCOS Awareness Month.
Let Maci be an example of how your situation can create positive change in others. She has become an advocate, and, if you’re looking for an outlet to heard, so can you.
The Shameless star hasn’t stayed quiet about her struggle with PCOS and credits a makeup artist’s advice to visit the doctor after experiencing irregular periods and acne.
‘Horrendous big boils suddenly started appearing along my jawline. They were red, swollen and really painful,” shared Rebecca. “I’d always suffered irregular periods, sometimes as long as nine months in between, but it never worried me.”
Rebecca now manages her symptoms with improved nutrition. “I used to skip meals and just eat cornflakes at night, because I’m not bothered about food. Now I have a little bit of everything, but not too much fat or carbs. I rarely eat wheat and don’t eat fried foods or much sugar. I feel really well.”
Making lifestyle changes, like nutrition and exercise, are great ways to manage your PCOS symptoms… whether it’s acne, hirsutism, anxiety, or the many other lovely side effects of our common thread.
And it’s pretty cool that we even share a common thread with such varied women across the globe. While it’s not a club we ever wanted to be a part of, it’s nice to be in such good company as Jillian Michaels, Jaime King, and others. Reading all these testimonies and knowing your own PCOS journey is proof that everyone experiences the disease differently. No two stories are the same, but the feelings and struggle associated with them are completely identifiable in our own. It turns out that being in this particular cysterhood is possibly more glamorous and less rare than you might have initially thought.