If you know me personally or follow me on social media, it’s no secret that I recently gave birth too my first child, a baby girl! But what you may not know is that it was not an easy process for us to become pregnant. This was due to a PCOS diagnosis. I wanted to share my story with others to bring awareness and normalcy to infertility but also to allow anyone who may be going through something similar to be able to hear someone else’s story. A forewarning – this does get very personal and maybe TMI at times, but I finally feel comfortable sharing – I also understand if you do not want to continue reading for any reason. It is also a long story and will be split up into a few segments, this will be part 1!
This story actually goes all the way back to when I was 18 years old in 2012. That year, I graduated high school, moved to Iowa City and started college. But I also went 9 months without having a period – with no reason or explanation (not pregnant and not taking any type of medication). This had happened before, but only for 6 months. Otherwise I had fairly regular cycles since I was 12 (although they were “long” cycles at 6 weeks, they were more or less like clock-work). While I didn’t really mind that I wasn’t having a period (because who wants to deal with that?) I finally decided that I should probably see a doctor about it because it was definitely not normal.
After seeing a doctor, tests, bloodwork and a referral to a specialist in Iowa City – I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS. The definition from the Mayo Clinic Website is as follows:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
Basically, I do not ovulate on my own and therefore never have periods, ever. There isn’t a clearly defined “cause” of PCOS and there is no cure. One way they say to “improve symptoms” is to work out and eat healthy. However, I was in the best shape and health of my life when I was diagnosed so that obviously was not my problem. I am not a “typical” PCOS patient (other than having bad acne) so I was never given a good answer on what caused it other than imbalanced hormones.
However, since I was a 19-year-old college student who wasn’t looking to reproduce at the time, I was put on oral birth control to balance my hormones. I actually felt better on birth control and eventually my doctor gave me permission to take the pill continuously without a “withdrawal” week, where one would typically have a period. This made me feel even better as I never had a dip in my hormones. This is how I lived for about 6.5 years perfectly happy.
Ready to Start a Family
Flash forward to June 2019 – I had graduated college, got engaged, was hired for a full time job, got married, bought a house, traveled, and my husband and I were ready to start a family.
I had been seeing the doctor that diagnosed me with PCOS every year and knew that I would most likely need assistance conceiving. At my appointment earlier in the year, I let my doctor know that I was planning to stop taking birth control in the Summer. She said I would need to be off of birth control for 6 months before she would intervene and to call her when I hit that mark.
This was the blessing in my infertility journey that I know not all people have. Because I was diagnosed with infertility years before I was trying to get pregnant and was already a patient with an infertility doctor, I had the advantage of only having to be off birth control for 6 months (as opposed to a year) before my doctor would “help”. Since she already knew my condition and my chances of conceiving were low on my own. I did not have to wait a year, and then get tests to be diagnosed, and then start treatment – we were able to have a plan in place ahead of time, before we even started trying.
However, that doesn’t mean that 6 months wasn’t long. I took my last birth control pill at the end of June, had a typical withdrawal bleed, and then did not have a period again. I took multiple pregnancy tests “just in case” but they were unsurprisingly – but not any less disappointingly – negative. Which meant I still was not ovulating on my own. Although it was expected, it was still hard and disappointing.
Finally, in December, after my six months were up, I went to see my doctor, let her know I had not had a period since stopping birth control and was ready to get pregnant. She was supportive and ready to get started. Here was my plan:
-Take Progesterone Pills for 10 days
-Wait for a period to start (about 2 days after last progesterone)
-Take 2.5mg letrozole on period days 3-7. To induce letrozole
-Intercourse cycle days 10-20ish (at least every other day)
-Get blood drawn on cycle day 21 to test for ovulation
Because the only “issue” I had was not ovulating, we believed that if I could just ovulate, we would easily be able to conceive. The only warning I had was that I still may not ovulate and we would increase the letrozole amount until it did make me ovulate. So while I was hopeful it would work the first time, I knew that it may take a few cycles to get me on the right dosage.
However, I never even got to take the letrozole this first attempt. After taking the progesterone, I did start a period. But it was a period that landed me in the hospital.
Continue reading my story in part two!