This is one of these posts that are written in your mind again and again, but your just not ready to take the plunge and actually write. Come on, I know you have a few of those too! I’m still not even sure I will actually push publish. But I’ve gotten this far, I’m sitting down and writing it. Here goes. This is my infertility struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome. (Deep breath)
For the longest time, I was in a bit of denial that I even have infertility issues. Sure in the back of my mind I was always worried I would have a hard time getting pregnant, but part of me wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be that girl who got pregnant the very first time she “tried”. Based on my history I knew this wasn’t in my cards.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Undiagnosed: The Teen Years
As a teenager, my cycles were always very irregular. My mom relied on state Medicaid for health insurance for our family. The selection of OBGYN doctors that accepted Medicaid was not great for a self conscious teenager. I’m really not sure why my mom didn’t take the initiative to find me a doctor for an evaluation, but it just didn’t happen. I lived with my irregular periods without seeking medical treatment until I turned 16.
When it came time for my first well women visit, I asked my friend’s mom if she would bring me to Planned Parenthood. Thankfully she agreed and was very supportive throughout the entire process. On the day of the appointment, I was a nervous wreck, not knowing what to expect. The staff at Planned Parenthood was amazing and very professional. They made me feel very comfortable during a less-than-fun first time appointment. Not only was I thankful for the doctors and nurses bedside manner, I appreciated Planned Parenthood’s sliding scale fees, as I paid for the appointment with my hard earned money.
Unfortunately after my initial well women visit, I was not very good about returning for annual examinations. I had the typical teenager mindset of “nothing will happen to me. I’m young and healthy”. Looking back I cringe at this thought and perhaps wonder if I could have prevented some of the issues I am facing now.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Surgery
In the summer of 1999, I experienced a night of hell when I began feeling extreme amounts of pain in my stomach and back. After a trip to the emergency room and hours upon hours of testing and waiting, I was diagnosed with a massive ovarian cyst. The doctor explained to me that he would not know if the cyst was impacting any of my reproduction organs until he did exploratory surgery to remove the cyst. I was terrified that I would wake up from surgery to find I was left with just one ovary or even worse. Thankfully, the surgery was successful and the doctor was able to remove the cyst without impacting any other organs.
Following my surgery, I began taking Orth-Tri-Cyclen to regulate my periods and decrease the risk of further ovarian cysts. Thankfully I have not experienced any huge ovarian cysts since my first one. Also my menstruation cycles were predictable while on birth control.
Trying to Conceive with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
I remained on the birth control until my husband and I were ready to conceive our first child in 2008. Once I stopped taking birth control my cycles became extremely irregular. I charted my cycles using the methods in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. Tracking my cycles was very eye opening! I discovered that I was not ovulating and my cycles were 60 days (or more) in length. During my sixth month of charting, I finally ovulated and became pregnant naturally. I was ecstatic that I became pregnant after just the first ovulation (in six months), since I had no idea when I would even ovulate again.
My pregnancy with my first child was generally easy, although my labor and delivery was hellish. Now 3 years and 7 months later Xander is a happy, rambunctious dude who I love to bits!
Infertility Testing Confirms Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
I never went back on birth control, after giving birth to Xander. My husband and I were ready for another baby, not even before Xander was a year old. I stopped breastfeeding Xander around 10 months (December 2009) and waited for my cycle to return. I again began charting, to discover I was not ovulating.
In May, I raised my concerns to my doctor and she referred me to the infertility clinic at Walter Reed Medical Center. I was very nervous at my first infertility meeting, but it went great. The doctor I saw was mouth to the floor shocked when I showed him my Basal Body Temperature charting (apparantly no one uses this method anymore?!). After reviewing my medical history, the doctor discussed the infertility work up I would undergo and what to expect during the next few months.
Following our first meeting, I had my blood drawn and scheduled my HSG (hysterolsalpingogram) . On June 1, 2010, between my first fertility appointment and the HSG procedure, my cycle returned however I did not ovulate.
Once my blood work results confirmed my doctor’s initial hypothesis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), he recommended a course of clomid to kick start ovulation. He then further explained to me the HSG procedure may help my chance of becoming pregnant, because the dye may remove mucus plugs, straighten the fallopian tubes, and break through thin scar tissue. However, he cautioned me to not get my hopes up too much, as the procedure is not guaranteed to help increase the change of ovulation. The main purpose of the procedure is to evaluate the reproductive organs.
The HSG procedure was EXTREMLY painful but thankfully very quick. I received the results right after the evaluation and they were normal. I then went about my business of tracking my cycles with BBT and an OPK (ovulation prediction kit). The plan was to wait to see if I would get my period and if I hadn’t by day 35 I would take a pill to begin it. Following that I would begin my first cycle of clomid.
A few weeks later, I was shocked and ecstatic to see a positive read on the OPK! I will spare you the details of what my next course of action was, as I’m sure you are well aware of how a baby is made! About 2 weeks later, on August 29th, I anxiously peed on a stick and discovered I was PREGNANT!
Again, I had a mostly uneventful pregnancy, even though I was followed by the high risk team. Right from the beginning of my pregnancy it was determined that I would have a planned c-section, due to my delivery and post-natal complications with Xander. Noah had other plans though. He decided to make his entry into the world three weeks early and with a rather fast labor, resulting in a VBAC practically on the side of the road! Seventeen months later, I can’t even imagine what life was like without our crazy little redhead.
Facing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome with Clomid
So if you follow, two babies and no need for unnatural interventions to conceive. This is where I feel like a fake. Although I have been diagnosed with PCOS, have very irregular periods, and infrequently ovulate, I have been able to conceive two amazing little boys naturally. I am so thankful for this. There are so many women, including some of my closest friends, who have struggled with far harder infertility battles than me. I feel the word infertility does not fully describe me. Like I haven’t earned the title. A title that no one wants to earn. But here I am facing the word again, head on.
I’m ready to grow our family again. I’m ready to experience the thrill of a BFP. I’m ready I feel the butterfly touch of my baby during the first few months of being pregnant. I’m ready to watch my stomach expand and my feet disappear. I’m ready to decorate another nursery room. I’m ready to expect the unexpected with it comes to labor and delivery. I’m. Ready. For. It. All.
I again did not go back on birth control, after giving birth to Noah.
I again breast fed, but this time am still breast feeding (primarily at bedtime).
This time my period did not return until 16 months after delivery.
This time I have not ovulated once in that 16 month period.
This time I turn to clomid.
Cycle 1, Pill 1 begins today.
I’m nervous, anxious, and hopeful.