Friday, February 1, 2013

PCOS: Let's do this!

Hi, my name is Alison and I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). There, I said it.  I have PCOS.

Until recently, only my husband, mother and maybe 2 close friends had any idea that I struggled with PCOS. It's not that I am ashamed to have PCOS, but stories of cyst-covered ovaries and infertility elicit sympathy and I have a serious complex about sympathy directed toward me. Perhaps I have a psychological problem or some childhood trauma buried deep inside, but I doubt it; it feels more like good, old-fashioned pride. I hate for someone to feel sorry for me. Oh, sure I like to feel sorry for others. After all, I grew up in a little corner of the world where Texas and the South collide head-on and I love to feel sorry for other people. "Oh, bless her heart," and "I sure do hate to hear that" roll off my tongue with such ease. I just don't want to have any heart blessing directed at me. My life is, for the most part, an open book, but only a handful of people know about my struggle with PCOS.

I started my period at age 13 and vividly remember the mixed emotions that came along with that. On one hand, I was excited to grow up. On another hand, I was moody and did not yet understand why. On yet another hand (I get as many hands as I want because I am talking about female hormonal issues), I was pretty upset because the night before my womanhood began I had talked my mom into this really cute Guess skirt and had plans to wear it church the next morning and I was extremely paranoid about this whole period thing. Everything seemed to go by the book, but 28 days later I was without a period. My periods came when they pleased, but I don't think I ever had more 4 in a year. I was in great shape, very athletic, but not so lean and muscular that amenorrhea should be a problem.

At 16 I took my first trip to the OB/GYN. Before long I was having ultrasounds and labs done to see just what was causing the irregular periods. I remember hearing something about polycystic ovaries, but I was not particularly worried. After all, I was not sexually active and only having to deal with periods and all that comes with them only a few times a year seemed like a winning idea. When I went to college, I began gaining weight. Along with the weight came a new PCOS symptom. I suddenly had acne, a problem I had managed to avoid in my high school years. I went on birth control pills throughout my 20s to trick my body and keep these symptoms in check and did not think much about it at all. My OB/GYN made it sound so simple. He told me to take the pills to keep things going, then some day when I was ready for a baby he could give me another handful of pills and we would be good.

I married my husband, Doug, when I was 28 on 07.07.07 and we did not want a child right away. I went on birth control for nearly a year and a half and stopped taking the pill in October 2008. I had my "period" from the last pack of pills during the first week of November and then waited for another period to creep up. By early February, I had still not started and decided to see my OB/GYN to ask for an injection or pills to induce a period. She told me we would need to wait 6 months following the last course of birth control to induce a period and sent me on my way.

On the morning of March 20, 2009, I rolled over in bed and my breasts were very sore. I decided to take a home pregnancy test and received a positive result. I drank about a gallon of water and took another test an hour later. It was still positive. I remember calling my doctor's office to get in for a blood test and answering that awkward question about my last period. Um, November? I was about six weeks along when we found out and on November 18, after a very uneventful pregnancy, I gave birth to Lily.

I packed on weight VERY easily when pregnant. I was unable to produce much milk (another PCOS symptom I later found) and was not able to exclusively breastfeed, so I hoped I would manage to have a period. I did not so we induced one with pills when Lily was 4 months old. I dieted, exercised and couldn't see to shed any weight.  When Lily was a little over a year, I stopped the pill and continued to try to lose weight with no success. I am writing this blog post two years later and I have not had a natural period since giving birth. In fact, in the 5 1/2 years I have been married, I have only ovulated once. On the positive side, our success rate on fertilization is 100%!

After about 6 months of dealing with infertility after Lily, I found a fabulous new doctor who helped me work on getting to the bottom of my problem. He showed me ultrasounds of my ovaries covered in "string of pearl" cysts and studied my labs carefully.  He referred me to an endocrinologist and I have learned so much about PCOS since then. I was prescribed Metformin, a drug generally used to treat diabetes and spent about a year and a half on Metformin and was actually able to drop a little weight with the help of that drug. Just recently, I started more in depth research about PCOS, hormonal imbalance and the processes of the body and have decided to take a more natural approach. This is where I will share my journey.

Doug and I would like to add another child to our family and I would like to do so as naturally as possible. I will combining exercise, nutrition and natural supplements in an attempt gently coerce my body to have a regular ovulatory cycle. If you are reading this, I hope it can help you in some way. All I ask of you is to pray with me as I embark on this journey!

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