At the ripe age of 17, my newly acquired gynecologist ordered an ultrasound for me thanks to several months (years, actually) of an absent/irregular cycle, with no presence of a pregnancy. It was the very first time I encountered, “Wanda,” (transvaginal probe), and I was horrified. Little did I know that “Wanda” and I would later become much more acquainted. A subsequent appointment following the ultrasound diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and in a single moment, it confirmed a gut feeling I had for years.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when the gut feeling began. It might have stemmed from an awareness of my own mother’s struggle to conceive, I’m not sure. All I know is that from about the same time my future – college, career, husband, children – popped onto my radar, so did a deep, pit-of-my-stomach feeling that having a baby wasn’t going to come easy. As it turns out, I was right all along. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) with anovulation, at 17, after years of irregular or completely absent periods. It was a difficult pill to swallow. On the one hand, it was helpful to have an answer for why things were so not ‘normal,’ but at the same time, it was jolting. What was this going to mean for my future? A future that included dreams of a large family.
Interestingly enough, in conversing with other infertile women I had connected with through Instagram, I found I was not alone in my gut feeling that infertility was looming. Others recounted similar thoughts. Thanks to social media those of us battling PCOS (as well as other reproductive obstacles) have been able to find many likenesses, comfort, and comradery. There’s also a lot of shared information on what works well for some, and not for others. For example, many are prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug that helps control blood sugar levels, to improve PCOS. Personally, I found the side effects of Metformin were so great that the cons far outweighed the pros.
PCOS did, and still does, impact my life. I was fortunate to find my true love early in life. We met in high school, dated for six years, and married at 23. At one of the first gynecology appointments, I went to post wedding my doctor recognized we were anxious to begin growing our family. That, coupled with my medical history, prompted her to not wait around in referring me to a reproductive endocrinologist. In our particular situation, it was helpful that she didn’t recommend rounds of less aggressive options such as Clomid. It would have ultimately wasted critical time. Looking back, the decision my gynecologist made was probably one of the most important and impactful, and I’m so thankful for it.
We endured several years on the infertility rollercoaster. It turned out male factor infertility played a significant part in our story, as well. In the end, after three rounds of IVF, one fresh transfer, five frozen transfers, and twelve embryos we are now a family of seven. Three brilliant girls. Two magnificent boys. I hope that if you’re reading this and are struggling with a PCOS diagnosis you understand that first and foremost, PCOS is NOT your fault. Improvements can be made with diet and exercise, but it is not a diagnosis based solely on weight or lifestyle. Throw that idea out the window, immediately. Secondly, I hope that you find inspiration in my story. I have stared up the side of the mountain and I know the intimidation. Dig deep. Faith over fear. In most cases, you CAN overcome PCOS, and subsequent infertility.
If you or someone you know is navigating PCOS please reach out to me. You can find me on Instagram at @conceiving_is_believing, DM me, and mention Indianapolis Moms. I’m happy to introduce you to an amazing group of people that get where you’re coming from.