Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don’t Ignore the Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

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Often times I am asked, “How long have you had PCOS?”.  My answer:  Officially for almost two years but really, since the first day I started my period.  My thrust into womanhood was very traumatizing to me.  I was 12, in sixth grade, and it was Halloween, (which is a holiday and time of year I hold to the same standards as Christmas), and it was in gym class; yes, gym class.  I’m pretty sure the experience could not have been more stereotypical.  I remember feeling as if I wanted to crawl under the covers and wake up about a week later when the whole thing would be over.  I didn’t even want to go trick-or-treating.  I went home and slithered into an old Mr. Potato Head costume because it was big and poofy, just how I felt.

 

Symptom #1, Insulin Resistance:

The rest of sixth grade was no more fun.  All of a sudden I was plagued with dizzy spells, headaches, chills, and lack of energy. (I was an avid dancer and gymnast growing up so having little to no energy was uncommon as I was active and in excellent shape.)  After a couple trips to the doctor’s and an enjoyable fasting glucose test complete with the nasty orange drink I was diagnosed with Hypoglycemia.

Symptom #2, Low Progesterone/High Testosterone:


Unfortunately seventh grade did not get any better.  People always say that teenagers have hormones that are out of whack, but I was certainly an exception from my peers.  I had incredible mood swings and irregular periods (which of course those around me attributed to my activity level and age).  I was what seemed to be borderline bi-polar and had hormones raging.  My mother, who has always been a supporter of natural supplements, herbs, and minerals, was seeing a doctor who specialized in women’s hormone therapy as a primary doctor.  Off to this doctor I go.  She determined that I had significantly low levels of progesterone and started me on a steady dose of prometrium to help level out my hormones.  (Funny, I still take prometrium today to induce a period when I haven’t ovulated).  This was also when I started having mild irregular hair growth that I was (and still am) careful to have removed at all times.  I would find myself wondering, is this right?  Do other girls have these same problems?  I just wasn’t sure.

Symptom #3, Pelvic Pain and Cysts:

By 16 I was wrought with female issues that had me in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals.  I hated it.  I wanted to be normal.  No one doctor could figure out what was causing me so much pain and what seemed to be cysts and inflammation on my ovaries.  I had test after test and surgery after surgery.  Is it PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), Endometriosis, what is it?  By 17 it seemed to doctors like the simple solution was to put me on birth control to mask the symptoms of a disorder that no one seemed to be able to figure out.

And then:

At 18 I was diagnosed with HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).  Was this the answer I had been looking for?  What is this HPV that was just recently easily recognizable by the medical community?  I was closely monitored for a couple years with colposcopy tests.  Then one day I moved from mild cervical displasia to pre-cancerous; and yet my doctor still wanted to “monitor”.  I’m sorry, but I don’t think that taking a couple snips of my cervic every three months is the most proactive way to treat a young woman of child bearing age who wishes to have children one day.  What if one day you take that snip and it is full-blown cancer?!  Time to find a new doctor.

I went to my primary doctor who did a cryo-freezing of the areas but unfortunately the cells decided they enjoyed the super cold temperatures and multiplied ferociously over the next six months.  On to a new OB but this time I went to a couple for  multiple opinions and this time they all said the same thing, LEEP.  LEEP is a procedure done in the hospital under anesthesia in which they literally burn off the bad cells with a small hooped instrument.  Thankfully, after my three and six month check up the pre-cancerous and HPV cells were long gone and have never come back.  So, I am healed right?  All of the issues I had from my teenage years were just a distant memory right?  Wrong.

Symptom #4, No Menses/Ovulation:

Shortly after a beautiful wedding to the love of my life we quickly decided to begin trying for a family.  I went off of birth control and didn’t have a period again.  I knew my yearly check up was coming in a couple months so I decided to give my body some time and then I would discuss it with my doctor since I was going to talk to her about pre natals and such anyways.  Three months after stopping birth control my period had still ceased to appear.  I spoke with my ob/gyn about this and she quickly said that because of my history she wanted to do some tests.  I thought the worst but couldn’t even imagine what the worst was going to be.

My blood work came back as it always had, slightly elevated testosterone and very low progesterone.  On to the ultrasound.  I knew something was wrong as soon as my ultrasound went from a surface one to a trans-vaginal during the test.  I will never forget the day my doctor called to confirm my fears.  It was a hot summer day and I was just getting ready to leave work to head to a memorial for a dear friend/colleague who had taken his life after being diagnosed with cancer the month before.  My doctor told me to do my research and learn all I could about PCOS.  She was starting me on Metformin to see if we could get a period to come.  I did a quick Google search to get a synopsis but had to leave.  By the time I was on my way home that evening I was sobbing on the phone to my husband begging him to come home from work early, something I have never done.  I felt like the world was crashing down on me after the loss of a good friend and the news of my infertility fate.

Moving On:

Within a couple days I picked myself up and hit every Borders and Barnes and Noble in the area with a list of books to gain as much knowledge on this Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome as I could.  My life had changed so drastically and there was so much to understand and change in order to adapt to PCOS.  I still don’t have a period on my own, at least without the help of a ovulation-inducting medications or prometrium but I am learning how to best handle and treat my diagnosis.

However, still to this day, almost two years later, I sit and wonder, what if I hadn’t allowed the doctors to ignore my mass of symptoms when I was a teen?  What if I hadn’t ignored my symptoms and sought answers?  Would I be pregnant or have a baby right now?  I will never know but I do know that I will never ignore the opportunity to share my story with anyone; especially when I never know if someone will benefit from hearing about what I have been through.  When it comes to infertility or PCOS or any other fertility-effecting disorder ignoring it will not make it any better.

To learn more about infertility please use the following links:

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Don’t Ignore…

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A tribute to National Infertility Awareness Week 2012

 

So many aspects of infertility are ignored by the general public, so why do so many within the infertility community ignore his or her own problems and suffer in silence?  Although many try to understand what an infertile could possibly be going through no one really understands, except someone else suffering the same fate as you.  But how do you know if the person standing next you, or the one you cross paths with at work everyday, or even a family member, is dealing with the struggles of infertility unless you speak up about it?

My husband and I have officially been TTC (trying to conceive) for two years now and I have been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) for almost as long.  My husband also suffers from MFI (Male Factor Infertility).  I don’t recall a time when I ignored anything to do with my fertility, or lack of.  I was open with everyone around me as soon as I knew that we would have troubles conceiving and through my honesty I have learned of women in my life who had problems themselves and have become a go-to person for other people who learn of a friend or family member who is struggling with infertility.  I have also embraced beautiful new friendships from women who were once acquaintances or colleagues that have been suffering from infertility as well.

Unfortunately I have crossed paths with women who find the pain of infertility too unbearable that she does not speak of it to anyone and does not want anyone to know, even the closest of family members.  The consequences of infertility are too great to bear alone.  Ignoring your pain, your shame, your fears, will not make them go away and will not make it any easier for those around you to cope or help you but only isolate them further because they will not know how to act around you.  I feel so blessed to have such wonderful and supportive family and friends to help us through our infertility journey.  Sunday evening my husband and I were at his parent’s home for a casual Sunday dinner when my father-in-law pulled out a newspaper article (he is notorious for saving newspaper articles for all of us relating to items he thinks we should or would want to, read about) written about a couple in the area who recently gave birth to twins via IVF and National Infertility Awareness Week.  The simple gesture moved my heart to tears and reminded me exactly why I have never ignored our struggles or the family, friends, and resources available to support us.

Infertility is one of the most painful experiences a woman, man, or couple can go through so why do so many of us ignore so many aspects of it?  Get out, be heard and make yourself heard.  Do not ignore infertility and hide it away deep inside to be a struggle only you bear.  Stand up and fight for our rights, for our needs, for who we are and what we stand for.

Don’t ignore…the ache in your heart

Don’t ignore…the partner at your side

Don’t ignore…the friend with an open ear

Don’t ignore…the family member with a consoling hug

Don’t ignore…the woman sitting next to you at the fertility clinic

Don’t ignore…the tears you fight back

Don’t ignore…the laughter that should be let out

Don’t ignore…the help and resources available

Don’t ignore…the opportunity to educate someone

Don’t ignore…who you really are

Don’t ignore…who you were before

Don’t ignore…infertility.

 

For information regarding infertility please visit the following sites:

 

Preparing for IVF

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This week all of the testing was completed to begin our first IVF journey.  All that’s left is signing the paperwork.  My incredibly large amount of medications will be ariving soon as well.  Lupron, birth control, valium, antibiotic, progesterone supplements, tylenol with codeine, and more.  Thankfully I already have enough Follistim and Ovidrel which cut the cost of this round a bit.  I am also working on preparing my body for what is to come to make my chances even better.  I am pretty sure that I have never been so scared or excited at the same time, not even at my wedding.   I have always spent a lot of time on the internet researching all things PCOS and fertility but now I am spending even MORE time.  I am so thankful that there is so much information out there to help me understand everything that is going on so I can be fully educated on the process and the if’s, and’s, and but’s.

On another note; I am so excited that my childhood best friend’s sister recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy after suffering the infertility effects of PCOS.  She was able to conceive naturally with minimal help from a reproductive endochronologist and it is such a victory for her and the PCOS community at large.

I guess I am feeling sentimental today, not sure why, maybe it is the dreary weather. My husband and I are leaving for a quick over night trip out of town half business, half fun and this will probably be our last opportunity before we begin the long road of IVF so I am looking forward to it.  Hope everyone has a blessed weekend!

Baby on the Brain

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It amazes me how I can actually go days without almost every thought being centered around having a child and then I wake up one morning and it is all I can think about.  I am proud of myself for even getting to a point that I can go a couple days in a row without really dwelling or obsessing over my infertility because there was a time when I was all-consumed with every aspect of conceiving a child which quickly led to a lack of motivation and depression.  Having dealt with depression as a teenager I knew the signs immediately and worked to restructure my way of thinking.  Though infertility is a life altering diagnosis and a very involved treatment process we must be careful to not forget who we are outside of infertility.  I love to read, exercise, shop, play with my furry babies, work in my flower beds, play in the kitchen, and try my hand at creative projects around the house.  At one point I was not putting much effort into any of this and focusing only on the one thing in front of me-having a baby.

Enough emphasis can  not be put on how important it is to reconnect every-so-often with our significant others as well.  Setting aside time for a dinner/movie date or a quick weekend get-away can remind us not only why we want to have a baby with this person but also reminds us that we can still have fun as a couple.

Dealing with PCOS and infertility can be a full time job and I have focused a lot of my energies on both with this blog, my Facebook and Pinterest pages, research, and activism but I also make sure that I take the time to enjoy life outside of infertility.  Being emotionally balanced is just as important for conception as your body’s health.  So take time off of the baby on your brain and focus on the other things in life you love; it’s amazing how more balanced and clear headed you will feel.

Preparing for IVF

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This week all of the testing was completed to begin our first IVF journey.  All that’s left is signing the paperwork.  My incredibly large amount of medications will be ariving soon as well.  Lupron, birth control, valium, antibiotic, progesterone supplements, tylenol with codeine, and more.  Thankfully I already have enough Follistim and Ovidrel which cut the cost of this round a bit.  I am also working on preparing my body for what is to come to make my chances even better.  I am pretty sure that I have never been so scared or excited at the same time, not even at my wedding.   I have always spent a lot of time on the internet researching all things PCOS and fertility but now I am spending even MORE time.  I am so thankful that there is so much information out there to help me understand everything that is going on so I can be fully educated on the process and the if’s, and’s, and but’s. 

On another note; I am so excited that my childhood best friend’s sister recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy after suffering the infertility effects of PCOS.  She was able to conceive naturally with minimal help from a reproductive endochronologist and it is such a victory for her and the PCOS community at large. 

I guess I am feeling sentimental today, not sure why, maybe it is the dreary weather. My husband and I are leaving for a quick over night trip out of town; half business, half fun and this will probably be our last opportunity before we begin the long road of IVF so I am looking forward to it.  Hope everyone has a blessed weekend!

The Friends Along the Way

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The TTC and PCOS journey is a long a tumultous ride, one which gives you many turns and bumps and ups and downs but there is one wonderful blessing that I have received along the way, the blessing of new friendships.  Through my journey I have always been open about my condition and the treatments my husband and I were going through beccause I have always been an open person and this time it has really paid off.  I have met a number of women along this winding road going through various stages of infertility, some I had known for quite some time and had no idea, others I have recently met.  There is nothing like being able to share your story with a close friend who understands exactly what you are going through, to pick up the phone or send a text when you just need another woman to talk to.  A couple of months ago one of my dear friends was going through an FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) on the same day I was awaiting the results of my BETA blood test.  Unforuantely my test was negative and her embryo did not survive the thaw but having her support all day made such a difference, and I swear I cried more for her lost embryo than I did over my negative pregnancy test after a double IUI.  She and I are currently going to be on similair cycles for a round of IVF (my first and her second fresh cycle) and we can not wait to go through this together because it is just so nice to have someone to talk to and share your experiences with.  Maybe we will also fulfill our current dream of going through the preganancy experience together. 😉

I also have my inspiration, a close family member who after years of TTC with multiple rounds of IVF inclduing surrogacy conceived naturally, out of the blue, and has just given birth to her third child.  I often think of her and tell myself that if she can do it so can I.  Miracles happen every day.

There are so many others who I have learned of along the way.  My best friend’s sister, work colleagues, my husband’s work colleagues, a couple of my employees’ daughter’s, the list can go on.  Some with PCOS and others with unexplained infertility.  I have learned a few things from this experience.  1.) It is okay to speak up because you never know who may need you to listen, and 2.) You really never realize how many women infertility does effect (you see the statistics but until you live them it is hard to belive); and 3.) By speaking up and speaking out you never know the wonderful friends you may meet along the way.