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Many women consider themselves brave for posting no-makeup selfies. Tina Beznec, 26, took the idea a step further to raise awareness for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): She posted a Facebook photo of one part of her morning routine — shaving.
The New Zealand resident wrote: "...As well as depression, anxiety, infertility, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, bloating, abdominal pains, acne, cysts, increased risk of cancer and everything else, a lot of women including myself have to deal with facial hair!"
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"Do you know how UNFEMININE this can make a woman feel?!? I've always been super self conscious about it, but really just have to put this out there," she wrote on Facebook.
Estimates of how many women suffer from PCOS aren't exact because many go undiagnosed for years and there's no test for it. It may affect anywhere from one in 10 to two in 10 women, according to Dr. Anuja Dokras, director of the Penn PCOS Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
PCOS is a term that applies to women who experience two out of the following three symptoms: Irregular periods, high levels of male hormones (which can result in acne and facial hair) and a large number of bumps on the ovaries.
"I have had symptoms such as excessive hair and sweating, irregular periods and depression ever since I was 16," Beznec told TODAY, via email. "But just accepted it as being 'normal' because I didn't know any difference."
Two years ago, when Beznec started experiencing abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue, she visited a doctor — who initially thought she had irritable bowel syndrome. Another doctor blamed it on depression. Beznec was close to giving up. She even thought she was crazy and it was all in her head, until earlier this year when a medical scan took a closer look at her ovaries.
"For a condition that is so common, it's definitely unheard of to a lot of people," Beznec told TODAY.
Doctors don't know what causes PCOS, but suspect some women may have a predisposition for developing it. The condition can lead to infertility, an increased risk of abnormal cells in the uterus and an increased risk for metabolic syndrome.
"Often, you feel very alone in your symptoms and you can't help but feel judged," Beznec told TODAY.
Beznec's post, which has over 6,000 likes and over 2,500 shares on Facebook, struck a nerve as other women with PCOS started commenting and sharing their own struggles.
"If you think you may have polycystic ovary syndrome, please don't be afraid to reach out and seek medical advice," Beznec wrote on Facebook. "It's a hard battle but the sooner you're diagnosed, the sooner you can manage your symptoms."
For more information on PCOS, visit the PCOS Foundation.