Like many reproductive disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (aka PCOS) doesn’t get discussed as much as it should, especially given how common it is. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that PCOS affects 8 to 13 percent of reproductive-aged woman all over the world, but that up 70 percent of women with PCOS are undiagnosed. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about this disorder, and why we always applaud when celebrities with PCOS step forward to share their stories.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that impacts women of reproductive age, and it occurs when your ovaries or adrenal glands produce too much of a “male” hormone called androgen. PCOS can come with a number of unpleasant and serious symptoms, including cysts on the ovaries, pelvic pain, acne, excess hair growth on the body, baldness or thinning hair, and infertility. That said, no two people experience PCOS the same, as this group of celebrities with PCOS proves. While some like Lea Michele struggled with weight gain and skin issues, others, like Victoria Beckham, have opened up about their irregular periods and struggles with infertility.
The more we spread the word about PCOS, the more likely people are to recognize their symptoms, talk to their doctor, and possibly get treatment, which is why these kinds of stories are so important. And beyond that, if you do have PCOS, it helps to feel less alone — and more understood — when those around you speak out about it. “PCOS is not even something that we hear about often,” Keke Palmer told SheKnows in 2021. “But I think [talking about it] was very freeing and also very vindicating.” Keep reading to learn about these celebrities’ journeys with PCOS.
Victoria Beckham first opened up about her PCOS experience while trying to get pregnant with her fourth child, Harper. “Every time I go out, someone says to me, ‘Are you pregnant?’” the fashion powerhouse told Now magazine at the time. After first trying to dodge the questions, Beckham eventually “resorted to overt, brutal honesty,” she said. “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!’”
Lea Michele experienced severe acne and fluctuating weight as symptoms of PCOS. “Growing up, I had terrible skin,” the Glee alum told Health in 2020. She went on birth control to help, but when she decided to go off the medication in her late 20s, the skin problems came back — along with weight gain. She was diagnosed with PCOS and has since been able to manage her symptoms through diet, acknowledging that she’s “very fortunate” to do so. “There are way more extreme versions of PCOS that women have a lot of difficulty with,” she explained.
Keke Palmer opened up about her PCOS experience in a vulnerable Instagram post in 2020. PCOS, she wrote, “has been attacking me from the inside out my entire life and I had no idea.” The Nope actress posted images of her skin and shared that her acne had gotten so bad, “people in my field offered to pay for me to get it fixed.” It wasn’t until Palmer looked into her family history and found patterns of diabetes and weight problems (both of which can be linked to PCOS) that she was able to get a diagnosis. “My family struggled for years and no doctor could help them,” Palmer wrote. “It’s only because of what my family sacrificed that allows me to even have the resources to share the information.”
Sasha Pieterse began experiencing symptoms of PCOS as a teenager, when she starred on Pretty Little Liars. “I never had a regular period,” she recently said on The Squeeze podcast. When Pieterse was around 15 or 16 years old, she continued, “I started noticing a difference in just my metabolism in general. At 17, I gained 70 lbs. in the year, for no reason. There was no explanation for it.” Adding to the difficulty was the fact that Pieterse was on-camera while experiencing these body changes. The actress said she visited “over 15 gynecologists” before she was finally diagnosed by an endocrinologist. Pieterse feared she’d have difficulty getting pregnant due to PCOS, she told People in 2020, but she was able to conceive naturally and gave birth to her son later that year.
Emma Thompson conceived her daughter, Gaia, via IVF when Thompson was 40. But the treatments were unsuccessful when Thompson began to try for a second child, and she soon found out that PCOS was affecting her fertility. “I would have desperately liked to have had more children,” the actress said at the time, per Express, adding that she processed “an awful lot of grief” after discovering she wouldn’t be able to have more biological children. Thompson and her husband Greg Wise eventually adopted a second child, Tindyebwa Agaba Wise, a few years later.
Harnaam Kaur was diagnosed with PCOS at age 12 — earlier than most — after she began experiencing facial hair growth. “I stuck out like a sore thumb, so it was easy for people to harass me,” the model and activist told ITV in 2022. “I was very vulnerable — I knew I looked different.” She waxed her facial hair for years until, at age 16, Kaur decided to embrace it and let her beard grow out. The result? Kaur has become an international celebrity with her own beauty brand, Harnaam Kaur Beauty, while holding the Guinness World Record for youngest female with a full beard. After dealing with mental health issues and bullying while growing up, Kaur has now learned to celebrate everything that makes her unique. “I have realized that this body is mine,” she explained. “I own it, I do not have any other body to live in, so I may as well love it unconditionally.”
Daisy Ridley was diagnosed with endometriosis at age 15, but it wasn’t until years later — when her pelvic pain returned, along with skin issues — that the Star Wars actress realized something else was up. “Finally found out I have polycystic ovaries and that’s why it’s bad,” she wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post in 2016, per Teen Vogue. Ridley was able to solve her skin issues after cutting out dairy and decreasing her sugar intake, but encouraged her followers to pay attention to their health issues and get help when they need. “To any of you who are suffering with anything, go to a doctor; pay for a specialist; get your hormones tested, get allergy testing; keep on top of how your body is feeling.”
Former pro wrestler Nikki Bella has one son, Matteo, with husband Artem Chigvintsev, but her PCOS diagnosis once had her revising her timeline for motherhood. “I’m in this unfortunate situation where I’m 36 and everyone is reminding me, ‘Your eggs, your eggs,’” Bella said in a 2019 interview with Health. “I also found out I have PCOS… I’m getting brown spots all over my face, acne, weight fluctuations, and hair loss. I actually just found out and was devastated. You research it, and there is no cure. I just pray I have some fertile eggs left and that I can still be a mom.” Bella gave birth to Matteo in July 2020.
Victoria’s Secret model Romee Strijd opened up about her PCOS experience in 2020, while announcing her first pregnancy on Instagram. “[Two] years ago I got diagnosed with PCOS after not getting my period for 7 years,” Strijd wrote. The news was devastating, she went on, because becoming a mom and starting a family “is my biggest dream.. I was so scared that I would never be able to because I got told it was harder to get babies in a natural way.” Strijd dealt with her symptoms by scaling back the intensity of her workouts, no longer restricting foods, and taking breaks from her hectic schedule when needed. “I’m so happy and grateful to say that I got my period back last november AND that WE’RE SOON A FAMILY OF THREE,” she wrote.
Actress, model, and activist Jaime King struggled to conceive for years, going through five miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and five rounds of IVF, she said in a 2022 interview with Yahoo. She now has two sons, but her difficulty getting pregnant was partially due to her undiagnosed PCOS. She experienced heavy periods and painful cramps in her teens and was eventually diagnosed with both PCOS and endometriosis. “My bleeding was so heavy. I’d bleed through everything — through tampons, through my pants, onto the bed,” King said, describing the experience as “horrific.” “I never knew what was going on because as a woman, I was taught that we’re just supposed to deal with pain,” she added. “That pain is just the natural state of menstruating, and that’s what women have to deal with and go through and to just basically suck it up.”
Model Jools Oliver had long wondered if she’d have trouble conceiving given her irregular cycle as a teen. When Oliver began trying to get pregnant with her husband, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, she was “quite quickly diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which meant that I wasn’t ovulating each month like normal,” Oliver told People in 2009. She underwent fertility treatments and ultimately gave birth to three daughters.
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