PCOS: The Beast That Is…

flower, pcos

Have you ever heard of PCOS? Its full name is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the best estimate is that one in five women in the UK may have it. Being the lucky lass that I am, I’m one of those women. 

Despite PCOS being more common than you might think it is not as well known or as understood as you might think. I’ve had to explain what it is to a number of healthcare providers in the past for example. This is something I live with every day and while sometimes it’s just something that ticks along in the background, sometimes it can be a pain in the backside. There is some great information on PCOS on the NHS website.

My PCOS 

PCOS affects different women differently. My particularly fun afflictions include excess weight that is incredibly difficult to shift (even though most of the time I eat like a blumming rabbit), fertility issues (more on this below), raging hormones (no, I’m not just a cowbag), oily skin and insulin issues. I’m type two diabetic and have to work very hard to control it. I’m not saying that PCOS made me diabetic, but it won’t have helped. Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome find that they are what is called insulin resistant.

Where Does it Come From

No-one really knows where PCOS comes from and why some have it and others don’t. Some women with PCOS struggle constantly with weight gain, some don’t. Some may have thinning hair, some don’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Some experts think that there may be a family link, however, this is far from having been proven.  Right now, it simply seems to be the luck of the draw.

Managing PCOS

From a healthcare point of view, (from our experience and many others) the main medical support you get for PCOS tends to only happen when you are having fertility issues. We were told at one point that it would be very unlikely that Roy and I would be able to have children without artificial help such as IVF. I don’t ovulate regularly. At one point I was releasing the odd egg here and there about every six months or so, and regular periods have never been something I’ve had. Sheer bloodymindedness and an ounce or three of luck gave us two sons after years of trying. The fertility team we were under were great but their hands were tied at the time by the postcode lottery that exists around IVF. Thankfully we eventually conceived successfully without that level of help.

There are numerous other ways to manage PCOS, natural supplements work for many, such as those from Nature’s Best, a healthy diet, exercise and checking in with your GP every now and then to keep an eye on blood glucose levels if this is a thing for you.  There are some fabulous online support group set-ups too. Verity is well worth looking up for those looking for better understanding and peer to peer support.

Moving Forward

Above all,  I would like to see more work go into PCOS understanding and general awareness, for women and for healthcare providers. One woman’s experience of PCOS may be very different to another’s. From hormone issues to physical issues, it really can feel like the luck of the draw. If you feel some of these symptoms match up with what you are experiencing, speak to your GP for further advice.

 

This post was sponsored by Nature’s Best to raise awareness of PCOS.

 

Our IVF journey

I have known Amy for a few years now, she is is the scariest, most funny and definitely one of the strongest people I have ever met. This is her story about becoming a Mum, against the odds. I’ve never posted about my struggles with infertility but if I do, I hope it’s half as good as this post! You can find Amy on Twitter & view her SockatasticByAmy business on Facebook. Enjoy the post, I certainly did!

I knew from being 22 that I would need IVF if I wanted to have children, when I was diagnosed with endometriosis (horrible condition, no cure, real pain but us girls just have to live with it!).  But back then kids were the last thing on my mind.  Me, a mother? Sorry but I had too many pairs of shoes to buy and good nights out to be had!

And then I met Jon. BAM the broody stick hit me so hard I probably would have ended up in China! I never knew than an emotion could overtake a rational human being that I thought I was.  But it did and like a rollercoaster, once you are on there is nothing you can do about it.

We had the grown up conversation – did we want kids? Yes. When? Now. Ok let’s get on with it then.  We thought we would have a go at it all natural like, just in case the doctors all those years ago were wrong.  But 8 months of practising later we admitted that we should possibly visit my GP.  So off I went, because we knew the problem lay with me. I was still the rational human being I had always been and was very pragmatic in my approach. Our GP referred us to the IVF unit and off we went (still practising by the way).

Our IVF consultant explained that we needed to go through the full raft of tests as if we didn’t know I had the endo, and that included testing hubby (much to his horror, the “pot and porno magazine” story was really true!).  We had a very funny car journey in rush hour to get his little soldiers to the testing clinic, with the pot firmly clamped between my legs to keep them at “body temperature”.  Soo glad we didn’t have a crash on the way – can you imagine explaining that to the police?

A few months and what seemed like a hundred tests later it was discovered that I had a very low egg reserve as well as the endo. So yes we would definitely need IVF and no amount of “practising” would get us our baby.

Until now we had kept this private but decide to tell our families, the same day my sister in law announced she was pregnant with her first child. God the heartache I felt at this point! It felt as though the whole world was conspiring against me. Everywhere I looked there were pregnant women, or adverts for kid’s things.  Even Nissan adverts got screamed at for telling me “there was no greater adventure than having kids”.  Ok now is the time to admit the rational human being had turned into a total raving hormonal lunatic!  I can honestly say that it was the lowest part of my life and I could have happily ended it all.  I couldn’t give my husband his own child, I couldn’t even be happy for my sister in law and her pregnancy. I hated the world and I wanted to get off.

We joined the IVF waiting list and were told about 18 months. During this time I offered to divorce my husband so he could find a real woman.  I cracked on the anniversary of my dad’s death and fled to my Gran’s, who has always been my rock.  To my amazement and relief she offered to fund one course of treatment for me so we didn’t have to wait any longer.  Within a month we had started our treatment.

The day I had my first injection was so emotional, not least because I totally hate needles! And I had just paid all that money to have my husband inject me every day for 7 days – what was I doing? Did I really want a child that much? YES I DID!! I would have given my left arm to have a baby!

2 weeks later and my sister in law gave birth. A very emotional time for us all but I went to visit and I begged her to forgive me. (I think she did as I got a cuddle from my gorgeous new nephew).  Things were looking up I felt.

However at the scan to see how many follicles we had, we were dismayed and totally distraught to find we had only grown 2. The consultant started talking egg donation next time, and I was telling my husband yet again to divorce me. But bless him, he put his bank manager head on and said we have paid for this treatment so let’s finish it and see what happens.  He was very matter of fact and at the time I hated him for wanting to put me through a treatment that I knew wasn’t going to work.

But 2 days later I was back in the hospital, high on valium (amazing drugs, they should be available on the high street). I was told to get undressed & put my nightie on, which I did. Then I had to get on the bed with my legs in the stirrups only for the consultant to announce to everyone that I still had my knickers on! Well nobody had told me to take them off?  How on earth I thought she was going to get in “there” with my pants on I will never know – I blame the valium personally.  (Oh I forgot to mention that while I was getting undressed hubby had to go into a little room with another pot and do his thing!)

So with my knickers stuffed in his suit pocket, my hubby looked into my eyes, stroked my head, and held my hand as he whispered words of encouragement to me. Apparently the consultant shouted “EGG” twice which was a good thing.  All I remember is fainting on my way out afterwards.

3 days on the sofa and we got the call.  2 very nicely fertilised embryos. See you in a couple of days with a full bladder so we can put them back in.  Then it was a waiting game. 2 weeks before we had to come back in to have a pregnancy test.

About 4 days before the test was due I started doing tests at home – to prepare myself for the negative result that was obviously going to happen. I left the first one on the side, then the 2nd day’s test and then the 3rd, telling my hubby they were all negative.  He went to throw them away but called me into the bathroom.  He said he could see 2 lines. I told him to stop trying to be positive, there was no second line.  However on the day of the official test I did another one. I was sat on the loo, staring, seeing 2 of the bluest lines I had ever seen in my life. No I was imagining it. There weren’t 2 lines there at all. It was my mind playing tricks on me.  But something made me take that test into our bedroom and smile at my husband as I said “I think you are going to be a daddy”.  I wish I had a camera for the smile he gave me – it was totally amazing! 

The nurse at the clinic took my sample and told us to wait. It seemed like she was gone for hours but within minutes she was back and put the test in front of us. 2 more very bright and dark blue lines.  I burst into tears. Hubby announced “guess we are not going round the world then?” (Our back up plan if the IVF didn’t work after 3 attempts was to travel the world for 3 months).

No time to get too excited though – we had work to go to! I told my boss before we told our families! In just couldn’t keep it in – we were PREGNANT!  Yes I could look at nappies, and family cars, and little pink dresses, and I couldn’t wait to get a waddle when I walked.

Words cannot explain how I felt that day. To try and find them would almost diminish the elation we felt. We had made it and that was all that mattered. Our IVF journey was over. We were on our way to being parents.  Our dreams came true that day and that was all that mattered.

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