Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects roughly five million U.S. women of childbearing age. As its name suggests, one of the main indicators for PCOS is the presence of multiple fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries. While its cause is unknown, its side effects are many and can include fertility issues, irregular periods, insulin resistance, severe acne, and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, to name a few. Several of Hollywood’s leading ladies have disclosed their own struggles with PCOS in hopes to spread awareness for the condition and relate to others who are affected by it.
You might be surprised to learn that someone whose whole career centers around being healthy actually struggles with a chronic condition, but it’s true! Fitness icon Jillian Michaels has spoken openly about her PCOS journey and how she manages her symptoms through healthy habits.
In an interview with Yahoo! Lifestyle in 2019, Michaels recounted being diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 15 following a cyst rupture but struggling for several years before finding a treatment that worked for her.
“I began to try to understand it. … Instead of throwing [drugs] at the problem, I looked at ‘why does the problem exist.’ … And over time, I pretty much had the situation under control.”
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Michaels continued: “It’s about eating right, working out, and eating clean. A lot of chemicals that are in our food wreak havoc on your endocrine system. I’m not saying if your doctor puts you on a birth control pill, say no, I’m just saying for me personally, I was able to manage the situation with lifestyle.”
The path to a PCOS diagnosis was all about self-advocacy for actress Keke Palmer. In a raw and heartfelt Instagram post, Palmer shared how her condition presented with severe acne and how she had to dig deeper for doctors to listen to her.
“Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome has been attacking me from the inside out my entire life and I had no idea. My acne has been so bad that people in my field offered to pay for me to get it fixed. I tried EVERYTHING. …But it took ME taking a personal look into my family that has a history of diabetes and obesity, to understand what was ACTUALLY happening with me.”
Palmer continued, “… unfortunately doctors are people and if you don’t ‘look the part’ they may not think that’s your problem. … I do not have a medical degree but I did the research and took what I learned to a doctor and that led them to a proper diagnosis. I’m not saying trust web md for everything haha but what I am saying is no one can help us like we can help ourselves.”
Glee star Lea Michele has shared the path to her PCOS diagnosis as well as how it affected her pregnancy.
In a 2020 interview with Health, Michele said that she struggled with acne in her adolescence but managed her symptoms with hormonal birth control. When she stopped taking the pill in her twenties, her acne came back and she began gaining weight rapidly. Michele was determined to find the root cause of her symptoms, and luckily, she met just the right doctor to help her do so.
“The minute she looked at me, she was like, ‘Oh, you have PCOS.’ It explained everything.” Michele claimed. “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.”
When it came time for Michele and her husband Zandy Reich to try for a baby, however, the actress admitted that her PCOS made things scary.
“… When you’re trying to conceive, it’s much harder, especially if you have extremely irregular periods. You never really know when you can get pregnant. … On top of that, I had to have multiple procedures to remove polyps and cysts and scar tissue.”
Luckily, Michele and Reich did welcome a healthy son, Ever, in August of 2020.
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham may have several children now, but she struggled greatly with infertility as a result of her PCOS. The star opened up to Now magazine about how she dealt with constant pressure from friends and family to conceive.
“I [was] really feeling the … pressure. Every time I go out, someone says to me: ‘Are you pregnant’… and 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!’
Jools Oliver, who is a model and wife to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, also cited infertility as her biggest struggle related to her PCOS.
In a 2009 interview with People, Jools shared: “Even when I was 17, I thought there might be a problem and that I’d have trouble conceiving because my periods were irregular.” Unfortunately, when Jools and her husband began trying to conceive, her fears came true.
“I was quite quickly diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which meant that I wasn’t ovulating each month like normal. … You hear horror stories and you think it’s going to be hard, but I didn’t care. I just wanted a baby.”
Jools made the decision to begin fertility treatments with a drug called Clomid, and the side effects were tough to deal with.
“I had all the side effects—dizziness, panic attacks, blurred vision.” Despite this, the star was “determined to get the thing done. It was awful, but I just thought: ‘Keep going.’ I’m sure any couple that has been through fertility treatment understands what I’m saying.”
Luckily, Jools Oliver’s story has a happy ending. She and her husband now share five children.