From a young age, all Jaime King knew was pain.
"What I was taught is, if you're a woman and you menstruate, it's painful and it sucks and you just deal with it," the actress recently detailed to E! News. "Like, cramps, headaches, throwing up, this and that, it's just sort of par for the course."
With conversations around painful periods, really any periods, largely "stigmatized," she continued, "I just assumed that's how s--tty it was—that three weeks out of every month, I'm going to be really sick and not know what's going on with me and have a hard time sitting, standing, walking, moving, just functioning throughout my life."
Being unable to walk three-quarters of the month not being super conducive to the thriving modeling career she'd launched at age 14—posing for the likes of Vogue, Allure and Seventeen while strutting down Chanel and Christian Dior runways—the Nebraska native began seeking out answers. But after years of playing physician bingo, it wasn't until she consulted with obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Randy Harris, "my ninth doctor," she noted, that she finally received a proper diagnosis.
Then 26, she remembered watching as Harris spent two hours on the phone with her mom capturing a detailed family history: "He said, 'I'm going to examine you, but I already know what it is that you have.'"
Following the check-up that, indeed, confirmed his suspicions, she was hit with another bombshell. In addition to diagnoses of endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and adenomyosis, Harris informed her she was expecting. "'But the baby's not in the right place and I'm putting you on ectopic warning,'" King recalled him telling her of the life-threatening pregnancy. "There was so much information that I was like, 'Wait, wait, wait. What are these things?'"
As confounding as it felt to undergo a crash course in PCOS—a hormonal disorder that can cause irregular periods and affect fertility—and endometriosis, where tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pain and more fertility issues, "He was the first doctor that's ever said to me, 'Women are not supposed to be in pain,'" she raved of Harris. "I finally felt seen for the first time."
Now she's hoping to hold that mirror up to others in her same position.
Even coming from "a place of privilege" in her hunt to find answers, it took years, she noted. "It's completely unacceptable that you spend years and years and years and years of your life suffering because there has been no education, no awareness," King said.
So many women have no idea what they're dealing with, she continued, "or they don't know until it's too late and they're in the emergency room because they have a cyst that ruptured and fluids filling your belly. It's insanity."
Hence her decision to team with Allara, a chronic care platform providing comprehensive virtual care to women dealing with PCOS. "You get a whole team of people that support you," she raved. "You can get your lab work done, you can actually get more than 10 minutes with a doctor, you can message with them. It takes a village when you have what I call this silent disease."
As the brand's new director of impact, she's hoping to amplify the condition bringing awareness to women, particularly those in marginalized communities. "It was kismet the way that we found each other—I've been dreaming of something like this for over a decade," she said of the partnership. "So much of women's health is severely overlooked and nothing has ever been created like this before. It was like, 'Hallelujah' to say the least—a big hallelujah."
These days, the 43-year-old has plenty of reasons to use the figurative praise hands emoji. Raising sons James Knight, 8, and Leo Thames, 6—with estranged husband Kyle Newman—"is the greatest gift," she gushed.
But getting to this place was quite the journey.
Told at 26, "you'll never have children," she shared, the journey to learning she was expecting James Knight involved "over 60" intrauterine inseminations, five rounds of in vitro fertilization and five miscarriages.
"It was awful," she recounted. "It was humiliating. It was painful. It made me feel like something was broken in me. I think that women are taught that somehow our capacity to be able to give birth and carry a child is the only reason why we're here."
Compounding that pain, the actress continued, was the struggle to commit to the intense schedule of medication and shots while logging 15- to 18-hour days on the set of Hart of Dixie.
"On my trigger day," she detailed, referencing the carefully timed shot prior to egg retrieval, "I was too afraid to even ask to leave. Then I lose that whole cycle just because I didn't have the freedom to say, 'By the way, it's my trigger day, let me leave set right now and go handle my business.'" While she acknowledged that line of thinking may have changed since then, "I was too afraid it would have been seen as a sign of weakness or that I was being unprofessional."
So she was equal parts terrified and thrilled when she discovered in early 2013 that she had conceived naturally.
"When I got pregnant with James Knight, I had already gone through so many losses that it was one of those things where you count the days," she shared. "You're like, 'Okay, if I can make it through this day, and this day, then I can get through this week and then this week.'"
King can still remember in detail the moment she knew she'd be holding her eldest son in her arms.
Relaxing at Northern California's Skywalker Ranch following a film shoot, "It was the middle of the night and he was awake, and like kicking, kicking, kicking, kicking," she described. "And I'll never forget that moment. I was like, 'Oh, this baby boy is coming and it's going to be magical.' And it is."
Her experience carrying his younger brother was more unnerving than it was enchanting—the combination of Leo Thames' serious congenital heart issue and her continued preterm labor meaning "I was essentially living in Cedars-Sinai for months," she revealed. "They had, thankfully, a team of doctors that were brilliant. But I did have to have an emergency delivery and then he had an open heart surgery at four days old."
These days struggles revolve more around Zoom schooling and piecing together a "tiny, beautiful little village of other mothers and families that have definitely been there" as she balances parenting with an upcoming film schedule that includes Man's Son, At First Sight, Lady and one "that I wrote, that I'm directing called Polar Season."
Her goal in bringing up her sons, she said, is "to listen to them, to respect their feelings, to raise conscious, kind, compassionate children and young boys. My main thing is that they feel safe and really secure to be who they want to be."
Because it was her support system that made her feel comfortable speaking openly about her PCOS diagnosis for the first time.
The night before that 2014 interview was set to publish, "I was like, 'S--t, do I do this?'" she shared of calling up pal and fellow PCOS sufferer Lena Dunham. "I was like, 'Dude, I'm freaking out, I'm having a panic attack. Everyone's going to think I'm this infertile hag, they're going to think I'm broken and the studios are going to think I'm too sick to work.' All these crazy thoughts started going through my brain because of the way that we've been conditioned."
Of course her openness did the opposite, connecting her to the legions of women dealing with the same issues who were grateful to hear that someone else had come out the other side. "I just needed that extra, like, 'Don't freak out,'" she explained. "And then once it was out, I was like, 'Game on. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go.'"