September is dedicated to raising awareness around Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

To help raise awareness around this condition, we reached out to Kym Campbell (@smartpcoschoices), who aims to educate and empower women about PCOS year-round, to get her perspective on managing PCOS, self-advocacy and more Kym is the creator of the 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge and The Beat PCOS 10 Week Program, where she seeks to help women overcome their PCOS diagnosis by applying evidence based approaches to food, exercise, and emotional wellness practices. 

After struggling with health issues since her early teens, it wasn’t until she was facing infertility in her 30s that Kym was diagnosed with PCOS. Following a long journey, inclusive of completely transforming her health through diet and lifestyle changes, Kym became pregnant naturally after years of failed IVF treatments. 

CooperSurgical: Hi Kym, thanks for your time today. Can you share with us your journey with and experience of PCOS? What led you to become a PCOS advocate and health coach? 

Kym: I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 30, and I originally started blogging about infertility as a way to cope with the difficulty my husband and I were facing. We are both interested in making evidence-based decisions, and we found so much of the information online was either misleading or poorly supported. So, as we figured stuff out for ourselves, we wrote about it, in case others found it helpful also.

It was after about a year I realized most of my readers were struggling with PCOS too. Since I had plenty of personal experience with this disorder, I decided to start writing more broadly on the topic,and not just about the fertility related concerns that come along with it.

I soon realized that the massive gap in knowledge and practical advice I had overcome within several years was endemic amongst women like me, and I wanted to do something about it. That’s when I created my 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge and began my work as a PCOS health coach. It was the best decision I ever made. The feedback I get from the women who take part in this free program is overwhelming. Giving guidance to women with PCOS on how to better their chances of becoming pregnant, or seeing them lose weight in a healthy, sustainable manner, is a truly wonderful thing to be a part of.    

CooperSurgical: According to a study published in 2016 by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, it can take an average of 2 years and 3 doctors to be diagnosed with PCOS. I know along your own path, you had difficulty getting properly diagnosed with PCOS. What advice would you give someone who suspects she has PCOS but is not being properly diagnosed? Insert link/reference

Kym Campbell

Kym: That statistic describes perfectly what I see every day with the women that I work with. It really illustrates just how important it is for women to advocate for better awareness of the health issues that affect them, as well as demonstrating the essential need for health coaches. 

I think getting a formal PCOS diagnosis can be exceptionally validating for anyone that’s struggled with this disorder since their teens. 

CooperSurgical: On your website, you share your experience with pregnancy loss. What insight, would you share with anyone who has gone through a similar loss?

Kym  I was such a wreck after both of mine and for a long time too. When you’re at the point of wanting to start or grow your family and you suffer the gut-wrenching blow of miscarriage, it’s nothing short of devastating. The only insight I can give, is to allow yourself the space to grieve. But also, don’t lose hope. Having a miscarriage doesn’t mean you won’t have a successful pregnancy next time, even if you’ve already been through this process many times before.

CooperSurgical: On Instagram, you have highlighted the importance of self-care when dealing with infertility and PCOS. Why do you recommend this?

Kym: To me, self-care is the idea of showing yourself the same love and kindness you would to your most beloved friend, family member, or pet. While I know this can sound kind of airy-fairy at first, I really can’t emphasize enough just how essential this is when facing any chronic illness. I’ve been lucky to have numerous intimate conversations with thousands of thoughtful and wise women with PCOS so I know that, like me, many of them are their own harshest critic.

We push ourselves to be super-daughters, super-friends, super-wives, and super-moms, but seldom allow ourselves the time and resources we need to be at our best. When you’re struggling with PCOS or infertility then this normal-but-not-helpful behavior comes at a massive expense to our health and wellness. It affects our families too. 

This is why I strongly support the idea of women giving themselves the care they need. It’s not selfish to include fulfilling your own needs in your long list of things to do and, in the majority of cases, it’s actually what you should be putting first – especially if you want to help others too . I know it’s kind of counter-intuitive for women to put themselves first, but the ‘breathing-mask in an airplane emergency’ analogy is very fitting if you ask me. 

CooperSurgical: In honor of PCOS Awareness Month, how would you encourage those who have PCOS or are concerned they may have it to become advocates?

Kym: There are many fantastic online resources for women with PCOS that give advice on alleviating symptoms that there’s simply no reason to put up with them any longer. While the exact causes of PCOS are still being unravelled by academics and medical researchers, the lifestyle interventions that can manage this disorder are well understood. They have been proven to work among fellow sufferers they are very affordable, 100% safe, and are things you can implement at home.

A good PCOS diet is by far the most important place to start. Learn as much as you can and take action, because even if you’ve been struggling for many years with the symptoms, there’s a good chance you’ll start seeing results quickly. 

Once you understand how empowered you can be, when you take your health into your own hands, it can be a real eye-opener.

Here are some resources in honor of PCOS Awareness you can turn to:

Resolve: The National Infertility Association

PCOS Challenge

PCOS Awareness Association

This interview was conducted by Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo.