I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I was diagnosed at 15 after experiencing irregular periods. All I recall form the diagnosis was that the doctor did a blood test and quickly prescribed me the contraceptive pill which I remained on for the next decade. My story is not unique. Many women I speak too experienced that same thing. Just like them I didn’t understand my condition or how it was affecting my weight or mental health.
As I entered my mid 20s I had a growing underlying fear that I wouldn’t be able to have children and very little information to console me.
I stupidly went off the pill shortly after getting married thinking I could fix my PCOS on my own and my hormones went nuts. I’m talking cystic acne on my jawline the size of blueberries that needed steroid injections. Mood swings, weight gain it was terrible and made me feel like never leaving the house again. I went back on the pill and regained control of my skin and weight. As much as I’d dreamt of conceiving naturally I needed help. I saw my GP who referred me to a fertility doctor.
What a game changer that fertility doctor was. For the first time ever he explained PCOS in a way I understood. I remember him explaining it like this: He said your body makes eggs but my body doesn’t release the right hormones to make those eggs mature and release. So they get stuck like a string of pearls or cysts. The reason we put you on the pill is to ensure your uterus shed and renews. This prevents you from developing endometriosis. He said PCOS is a condition that doesn’t discriminate, it affects women of all shapes and sizes with varying severity.
Next he sent me for every test to assess me. I had literally so many bloods done I had to go over 3 days because the nurse refused to take so much in one sitting, I had a internal ultrasound (yep they’re a thing- think wand up you know where) to count the ‘pearls’ stuck in my ovaries. I had ink squirted up again you know where, this allows them to X-rays to check your Fallopian tubes are all good- this by far was the WORST test…. vomit!.
The fertility doctor started me on ovulation induction, This is like the first level treatment that they try before IVF. In brief it means they force your body to mature and release the eggs.
It started with me doing a month of contraceptive- this is to work out when Day 1 of your cycle is. Following instructions on the first day of my period I rang the clinic. They told me to come in the next day for bloods- which would be day 2. Bloods opened at 7am at the hospital. When you arrived you signed in and nurses saw you in order of arrival. Needing to be at work by 8 the process alone of getting early enough was slightly stressful to say the least. Anyways enough complaining here’s what happened:
- Blood Test 1: The bloods measured my Estrogen, Lutenizing Hormone and Progesterone. My results meant I needed to start a course of Letrozole for 5 days and have no unprotected sex. Well Letrzole is a interesting drug and the fertility doctor told me not to google it because the side affects can be scary. For me it was mood affecting and caused weight gain- not fun!
- Blood Test 2 : Five days later I returned to be pricked again- result- waiting for oestrogen to rise, no unprotected sex, return in 3 days
- Blood Test 3: Still waiting for estrogen to rise, no unprotected sex, return in 4 days
- Blood Test 4: Still waiting for estrogen to rise, restart Letrozole at double dose, no unprotected sex, return in 7 days
- Blood Test 5 : Waiting for estrogen to rise, no unprotected sex, return in 3 days
- Blood Test 6 : Estrogen starting to rise, no unprotected sex, return in 2 days
- Blood Test 7 : Getting close to ovulation, no unprotected sex, return in 2 days
- Blood Test 8 : Administer Ovidrel Pen tonight. This is a injection you give yourself. You basically get this pen out of the fridge, attach the needle, turn the cap to the right dosage, pinch your stomach fat, insert needle and press down until the whole dosage has gone in. It sounds awful, but its really not that bad, and doesn’t really hurt at all. Following the injection instruction said to start trying to conceive that night, the next day and the day after. I also had to do booster injections of a reduced dose 3 more times that week.Then the waiting game began. I couldn’t do one of those over the counter pregnancy tests because the booster injections contain HCG, the same hormone a pregnancy produces. So a home pregnancy test would give a false positive.
- Blood Test 9 : Not pregnant- ring us on the first day of your period.
I wasn’t overly disappointed to find the first month hadn’t worked. I’d already accepted that this could take a while and felt with the medication dose changes, that this month was more of them working out my body than anything else.
However the physical effects were noticeable. My arms were so bruised. I naturally have low blood pressure which meant sometimes only one arm would play the game and they’d have to use that same arm over multiple dates. It also didn’t help that the weather was warming up and I was having to wear long sleeve shirts to hide my arms. I found having hydrolyte each morning helped them find the veins quicker and really tried to up my water intake for round 2. I’d put on weight and was soo tired all the time but we persevered.
- Blood Test 1: Commence Letrozole at double dose for 7 days and have no unprotected sex, return in 8 days
- Blood Test 2 : waiting for estrogen to rise, no unprotected sex, return in 4 days
- Blood Test 3: Small estrogen rise, no unprotected sex, return in 2 days
- Blood Test 4: Estrogen rising, attend an internal ultrasound, no unprotected sex, return in 2 days. The ultrasound is to count how many eggs your releasing to prevent you possible falling pregnant with 3+ babies! I only had 1 that on the scan- not gonna lie at this point I though twins would be awesome. I have since changed my mind.
- Blood Test 5 : Administer Ovidrel Pen tonight. Do booster injections of a reduced dose 3 more times this week.Then the waiting game began. I couldn’t do one of those over the counter pregnancy tests because the booster injections Start trying to conceive that night, the next day and the day after. Commence progesterone, return in 8 days. *progesterone are pessaries that you have to put up your bum..wonderful
- Blood Test 6 : Mid luteal (which means you are a week post ovulation) return in 9 days.
- Blood Test 7 : Good levels, continue progesterone, return in 4 days.
- Blood Test 8 : Pregnant!!!!!! continue progesterone, return in 3 days.
- Blood Test 9 : Good pregnancy levels, continue progesterone, return in 3 days.
- Blood Test 10 : Good pregnancy levels, continue progesterone, return in 3 days.
- Blood Test 11: Nice rise in pregnancy levels, progesterone levels have dropped but remain at good level, attend ultrasound, continue progesterone, return in 4 days.
- Blood Test 12 : Good pregnancy levels, continue progesterone, NO MORE BLOODS!
I was so lucky! I know this is not everyone’s experience but the treatment was really effective on my body. I continued to take the progesterone pessaries everyday for 14 weeks. It’s my understanding that sometimes people with PCOS don’t produce enough progesterone naturally which can cause miscarriage. I had a really healthy pregnancy resulting in a beautiful baby boy.
What I learnt the most though was that I didn’t need to fear my PCOS. I just needed to learn about my body. The fertility doctor took such good care of me and helped us to create a family of our own.
To all my PCOS girls and mumma’s out there I’m thinking of you, make sure you get all the help and support you need. It’s certainly not a easy journey but you will get through it I promise.
Mumma Z xxx