When I was 19 years old, my period didn't come for two months. Naturally, my first thought was, oh shit, I'm pregnant, because there was definitely a possibility. I had been with my then-boyfriend for years and we weren't using protection, so the idea of two lines showing up on a stick wasn't that far off. Buying a pregnancy test at a pharmacy can be such an awkward experience, so I pulled my hoodie over my face as if I was on the run from the law, grabbed a bunch of unnecessary items, and I bought the test. All of that, and it came back negative. My OBGYN warned me that it was possible that I could have gotten a false negative so I scheduled an appointment with her and I was hopeful that by the time I had gone, my period would have come. It didn't. Two months turned into three, so I walked into that office prepared for the worst. Because I knew I didn't want a child, I had been rehearsing how I would tell my doctor that I wasn't ready to be a mother. My relationship was beyond dysfunctional, I wasn't mentally prepared for motherhood, and as selfish as it sounds, I didn't want to be a teenage parent.
As my legs dangled on the examination table awaiting what I thought would be the worst conversation, she walked in, and immediately hugged me. It was as if she knew everything I was feeling and she leaned in and delicately asked me, "Do you desire pregnancy?" And I abruptly responded, "No ma'am." As gentle as she was, I still wondered how I found myself standing in front of the same doctor who made sure I was on birth control before I left for college, telling her I might be pregnant as I approached junior year.
The days that I waited to hear back from her felt like years, but one day while I was at work, she called. When I went back in for my follow-up, she wasn't smiling at all - she looked worried. The words that followed after changed my reproductive life forever: "You're not pregnant, you have PCOS." At that point, I felt like pregnancy would have been easier to swallow. Between my tears and overall confusion, what I made out from the conversation was my hormones were off-balance, and that because I had gained a significant amount of weight, there was a possibility that I could be infertile. Leaving the office, she also prescribed that I take a medication called Metformin to bring my period down and stay on birth control to regulate my cycle. Afterwards, I immediately went home, called my mom, and did tons of research on PCOS.
What You Need to Know About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
According to Healthline.com, PCOS is defined as a condition that affects a woman's hormone levels. Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. This hormone imbalance causes them to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant. PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body and baldness. And it can contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Birth control pills and diabetes drugs can help fix the hormone imbalance and improve symptoms.
Who PCOS Affects
PCOS is a problem with hormones that affects women during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Between 2.2 and 26.7 percent of women in this age group have PCOS and studies show that up to 70% of women who have PCOS haven't been diagnosed.
Symptoms of PCOS
- Irregular or skipped periods
- Cysts in the ovaries
- High levels of male hormones
- Infertility/difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate because if your period isn't coming, you aren't ovulating)
- Excessive hair growth – usually on the face, chest, back or butt.
- Weight gain
- Patches of dark skin
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Oily skin or acne
How PCOS Affects Black women
- Increased rates of hirsutism (excess hair growth in typical male patterns, but on a female)
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome
- Lower likelihood of getting pregnant (Black women do not have as much success with in vitro fertilization as white women, and they're also more likely to be obese—a risk factor for infertility)
All of the information I found on Beyonce's internet, and I still felt lost because, outside of the irregular period, I had none of the symptoms that I saw online. I'd gone from mentally preparing to have an abortion, to searching for support groups for a hormonal disorder that could prevent me from having children. With a combination of prayer and self-reflection, I decided I'd do whatever it took to take my body back. As kind as my doctor had been, she wasn't helpful outside of the scope of Western Medicine and I needed more than pills, I needed real healing.
Over the course of three years, I did these things to reverse my PCOS symptoms:
- I worked out two to five days a week
- I went all organic (I started with little things, like buying the foods I consumed the most in the organic variety)
- I stopped drinking sodas/juice and eliminated high carb fruits/vegetables from my diet (I now only drink water, coffee, and green juice with no fruits added daily)
- I focused on losing stomach fat because excess weight around my midsection means added pressure on my ovaries
- I reminded myself that on days when I didn't want to work out, I was doing this for the children I wanted to give life to someday (I know it sounds like a lot but the thought of infertility is scary so I practiced affirmations daily)
- I got off Metformin and relied on my body to do the work
Months before my 23rd birthday, I made a follow-up appointment with my doctor. She was thrilled to tell me that my androgen levels (testosterone levels) had gone down and that I was making great progress. I walked out of that office feeling like I was finally on the path to fertility again, but I was still on the pill. What most doctors don't tell you about your period on birth control, is that it's not a real period. Because birth control alters the levels and hormones in your body, menstruation is triggered by a drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, both of which are artificially produced by the pill. This means that menstruating on the pill isn't a real period; it's "withdrawal bleeding" produced by a lack of artificial hormones aka, a "fake" period. So I couldn't be happy with those levels dropping if I was still taking birth control pills.
Once I was single I became celibate, so I didn't need the pill anymore, but I stayed on out of fear. Days before I finished my last pack, I decided to trust myself, pray even harder, and thirty days after I got off the pill, my period came on time and it's been regular ever since. My cycle has changed so much since being off the pill for the better, and I can feel so much now that I didn't before. Ovulation is something I'm excited to experience. I no longer have menstrual cramps because I feed my body what it needs, and I stay active. This journey hasn't been easy but I made a decision to undo the damage, and research (on everything from herbs to fight PCOS, plant-based feminine products, what your menstrual blood color means, and how to keep your hormone levels even through your diet.)
That doctor's appointment was eight years ago, and I'm now 60 lbs down. I have a new fertility doctor who, after a series of tests, officially confirmed that I was misdiagnosed. And I'm exploring such a beautiful relationship with my body and womb wellness overall.
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Dubbed one of the "21 Black Women Wellness Influencers You Should Follow" by Black + Well, Yasmine Jameelah continues to leave her digital footprint across platforms ranging from Forever 21 Plus, Vaseline, and R29 Unbothered discussing all things healing and body positivity. As a journalist, her writing can be found on sites such as Blavity, Blacklove.com, and xoNecole. Jameelah is also known for her work shattering unconventional stigmas surrounding wellness through her various mediums, including her company Transparent Black Girl. Find Yasmine @YasmineJameelah across all platforms.
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Zoë Kravitz Has This To Say When Asked To Take Her Braids Out For Projects
Actress Zoë Kravitz is opening up about the entertainment industry's beauty standards and its impact on her life.
Since Kravitz --the daughter of singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet-- made her acting debut nearly two decades ago in 2007's No Reservations, she has been a force to reckon with.
Over the years, the 34-year-old has selectively chosen roles that best showcase the range of her abilities and has remained authentic to herself by speaking up about issues she feels are essential such as Hollywood's pushback toward Black hairstyles.
Earlier this year, in an interview with Elle magazine, Kravitz shared details about the struggles she faced within the entertainment industry because she wanted to wear a protective style, mainly micro braids, and how Hollywood has changed its tune following the murder of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter movement.
Zoë On Wearing Braids In Hollywood
In the discussion, Kravitz disclosed that before Floyd died in 2020, she was often "fighting" about how she would wear her hair on the set of numerous projects, including photo shoots.
The High Fidelity star recalled when she went to various photo shoots with her braids, a stylist asked her to remove them so that her hair could be done differently. Kravitz added that her direct response to the request would always be "pretend this is the way it grows out of my head."
Kravitz shared that the reason behind her statement is because of how long it takes to get her hair done, and over time, she noticed that her white counterparts weren’t receiving the same treatment when they would change their looks by dying their hair.
"[Pre-George Floyd], I was constantly just fighting [about my hair] and being asked to change it. I would do a shoot, and this still happens to be honest, where they'll say, 'Can you take your braids out? Because we want to do something else.' And I always reply, 'Pretend this is the way it grows out of my head," she said.
"You don't ask people that have long blonde hair to change their hair every time they do a shoot.' It's interesting that I'm often asked to pop them braids out. Do you know how long this takes? And it's also the way I wear my hair."
When the topic shifted to how long it usually takes for Kravitz to get her micro braids installed, The Batman star claimed that it can take about "12 to 15 hours." During those moments when Kravitz is getting her hair done by two braiders at a time, she uses it as an excuse to relax by smoking weed and watching films.
Zoë On Hollywood Becoming More Conscious
Further in the interview, Kravitz explained how Hollywood and the entertainment industry have changed in recent years and the work that still needs to be done.
Kravitz revealed that Black people in the entertainment industry are now being offered roles that "go beyond stories about being Black." The Big Little Lies star added that Hollywood still needs to grow in some aspects by making room for more Black female directors, particularly when it comes to telling the story of other Black people.
"I think there's more of a consciousness around making sure that Black women, Black people, get to be a part of stories that go beyond stories about being Black, and then also finding ways to bring that truth into a story. For a long time, it was about being—if it was a Black woman, with a white man, it was about that, you know what I mean? It couldn't just be a love story between two people," she said.
“I think that's really exciting. And ways I would like [the industry] to continue to grow—I want more Black directors. I want more Black female directors. In terms of telling our story, I would be excited to work with more Black female directors. So let's make more room for that."
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