September is PCOS Awareness Month and an excellent opportunity to spread awareness about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this common female reproductive disorder. PCOS, which stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, affects five to ten percent of women from the beginning of menstruation through menopause. If left untreated, PCOS can have long-term health repercussions throughout a woman’s life, including increasing her risk of developing cardiovascular disease, reproductive cancers, diabetes, and depression.

PCOS is a common, but misunderstood disease. Experts estimate that up to 50% of women are not diagnosed correctly with it. Many women do not learn they have PCOS until they seek the help of reproductive endocrinologist because of infertility. Doctors confirm a PCOS diagnosis if a woman has two of the following three symptoms: absence of ovulation, high androgen (male sex hormones, such as testosterone) levels or multiple ovarian cysts.

Many advocates feel this lack of awareness is harmful to the PCOS community. In an article in the Huffington Post, Sasha Ottey, founder and executive director of PCOS Challenge, inc., said: “PCOS is one of the most critical, underserved, under-diagnosed and under-funded conditions affecting women’s health. We need the help of media, government agencies and funding sources to improve patient outcomes and help save lives.”

Other factors compound this dilemma. PCOS symptoms, such as excess body or facial hair, acne, weight gain, and infertility can cause women to feel shame, embarrassment and depression. PCOS sufferers often question their femininity, self-image and confidence, which may prevent them from talking about what is happening to their bodies. These emotional effects can last a lifetime.

So when celebrities step up to tell their stories about PCOS, they can have a real impact in reducing the stigma of PCOS.

Female celebrities have PCOS too

Because PCOS affects so many women, it stands to reason that many female stars also have it. Some have been brave enough to share their PCOS and subsequent infertility struggles, which helps normalize this disease with the public and for the non-celebrity women who are coping with it. Their bravery in taking a public stand, even about the more unfeminine aspects of this disease, has motivated non-famous girls and women to seek medical help and finally get diagnosed and receive proper treatment.

Jillian Michaels

Ms. Michaels is best known for her role as a fierce trainer on the weight loss show ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Jillian has been outspoken about her fertility challenges with PCOS and endometriosis and is a mother through adoption.

She relies on a strict diet and exercise regimen to keep her PCOS under control, using these techniques to help others develop their best physiques.

Harnaam Kaur

Harnaam is an Instagram star and body activist. After becoming a Sikh at 16, she embraced the Sikh tradition of growing her hair long. She grew her facial hair into a beard. Her beard is the result of high testosterone levels characteristic of PCOS.

Most women with PCOS hirsutism will not go to the same lengths as Harnaam has in powerfully embracing this condition. Kaur, however, has become a spokeswoman for the body positive movement and her efforts have shone on a light a symptom of PCOS that distresses many women.

Daisy Ridley

Not many actresses want to admit to their facial flaws, but the young “Star Wars” actress has been open about her bouts with acne caused by PCOS.

Victoria Beckham

Many might be surprised to learn the perpetually thin Victoria Beckham, who is the mother of four children, would have PCOS troubles. But Ms. Beckham has confessed to having irregular periods that have had a negative influence on her fertility and has become one of the faces of ‘lean’ PCOS: women who do not necessarily gain weight because of the disease.

Emma Thompson

The Oscar-winning actress has been public about her battles with PCOS and infertility. She is a PCOS warrior who has proudly used in vitro fertilization to build her family.

Jamie King

Ms. King is another celebrity who demonstrated persistence to create her family, despite a history of PCOS and miscarriages, and now provides hope to other women who face infertility because of their PCOS diagnosis.

Thank you to these famous women who are using their platforms to elevate the conversation about PCOS. When they talk, people listen. Though PCOS cannot be cured, it can be controlled with proper medical and lifestyle interventions.