Fertility Chats #1: Talking PCOS

Today is a bit of a personal post but I thought I would just take advantage of a situation that I am going through to hopefully help many women that are very likely going through the same thing as me. All this to say: Welcome to Fertility Chats, a kind of fertility diary to share my journey but also all that I have been learning since my PCOS diagnosis.

After our wedding, we decided to stop any type of contraception and just let life do it’s thing and try for a baby. Seven months after, we are still here and no baby. And although it is normal for a couple to try for a year at least to have a baby, for some reason I always thought that these things happened pretty quick – maybe because some friends around me got pregnant in the first month of trying. Not only that, but we also spend half of our teenage years hearing things like “be careful or you might get pregnant” like it is something that happens so easily. The truth is that it isn’t and although YES, you definitely need to be careful if you don’t want to get pregnant, for us woman that do, this wait is the worst. 

When I was 16, I had very irregular periods and very painful too so I asked my mum to take me to the doctor. When I went, I had an ultrasound that found a couple of cyst in my ovaries and so the doctor just started me on the pill and said it would all be sorted. One of the first questions I asked was: will this stop me from having kids? To what she answered “no, you will be fine”. For a 16 year old to ask something like that, she must have thought I was insane.. but I always knew I wanted to be a mum one day and the last thing I wanted was to be infertile.

Fast forward to now, when I stopped taking the pill I decided I wanted to check on it and see how things were before even starting this process seriously. I was aware of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and due to my history and how my cycles were right after stopping the pill in September 2018, I suspected I had it. So off the doctor I went in November, had some blood tests done along with the ultrasound that found multiple cysts in both my ovaries. That, along with my irregular periods was enough to diagnose me with PCOS (more about PCOS here). Even thought I was expecting this, it was still a shock and I didn’t want it to sink in. So I think I ignored it for a little bit.. the doctor advised me to start some pre-natal vitamins and asked if I wanted to have more blood tests to check if I ovulated but it all felt a bit too much so I said no and continued living my life as normal (or pretended to). I heard a lot of people saying  “don’t worry, it’s nothing” or “it will be fine”. So I decided to put myself in a set of mind where I tried to convince myself that nothing is wrong with me and that PCOS isn’t affecting my fertility. The truth is that it definitely does affect fertility and probably is making the process a bit harder for me and I have finally realised that if I acknowledge the problem, I can act on it and, hopefully, improve my fertility. 

PCOS is one of the main causes of infertility and it’s one of the most common conditions in women. If you don’t know what it is, in a nutshell, it’s when several follicles mature but never release the egg and so they develop into a cyst afterwards. So this means that ovulation does not take place every month or every cycle like in a “normal” woman. For someone that is trying to get pregnant, this has a big impact and the journey gets a lot harder.

As not ovulating all the time isn’t enough, our cycles can be so long and irregular that it is also very difficult to track ovulation. A lot of women with no problems can use ovulation prediction kits (OPK’s) but for us, women with PCOS, that is a waste of time. Not only our cycles are long and irregular and therefore we don’t even know when to use them but also the hormones that those tests detect are often elevated on women with PCOS and so it is very difficult to read or trust those tests as they often give us false positives. So what are our options, you may ask?

Well, after 7 months of trying to conceive and many disappointments, I have slowly started taking control of this condition and of my body and I think I am finally seeing some results. So here is some things I have changed:

VITAMINS

Since I got the phone call saying the results of my ultrasound, the doctor advised me to start taking pre-natal vitamins as they help your body recovering from the lack of the pill. They mostly recommend folic acid and vitamin B12 but with me being a nurse, I did some more research and found other vitamins that help increasing fertility. I can write another post a bit more in depth about this subject but here are the vitamins I am taking:

TRACKING OVULATION WITH YOUR TEMPERATURE

One of the things you can actually trust to track ovulation is taking your body basal temperature every day, right after you wake up. Temperature normally spikes right after ovulation so you can use this method to, at least, confirm ovulation. The down side of it is that you are unable to predict ovulation and therefore, timing intercourse can be quite difficult and I think this is the main reason we have not managed to get pregnant yet. I have had cycles with confirmed ovulation but unfortunately, we just didn’t catch the egg in time. This is when Ovusense will come in. Ovusense was created to track your vaginal temperature (core temperature) and so it is way more accurate on predicting and confirming ovulation.  I read about it last week on a very helpful site with a lot of info on PCOS (click here) and without thinking twice, I’ve hit the buy now button and I am very anxiously waiting for it to arrive and I am really confident about it. I am hoping that it will change everything for us! You should expect a blog post on it very soon too. Get your fingers crossed for me.

TRACKING YOUR CM

Cervical mucus is one of the things that can predict ovulation too and although it can be a bit more difficult with woman with PCOS, it is possible with a bit of patience. Cervical mucus alters as you get close to ovulation. Just before you ovulate, you get an egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) – the most fertile mucus you will identify that really helps sperms finding their way to the egg. Woman with PCOS can have several patches of EWCM in just one cycle so although it is hard to confirm ovulation using this method on it’s own, this paired with tracking your temperature are the perfect combination to predict ovulation. So the secret is every time you see EWCM, get baby dancing (as they say in all fertility chats) and just hope for the best.

CHANGE YOUR DIET AND EXERCISE

Ok, I have to say I am not sticking to this 100% but I am much more aware of what I eat now and this month is the month I will try and get some more cardio done and really hit the gym. Sugars are the enemy of PCOS as many other things and all the greens are what you need to focus on to improve your PCOS. I have read about many women that with healthy eating and regular exercise have managed their PCOS symptoms and some of them even eliminated all the cysts in their ovaries. Pretty cool right? PCOS is all about hormonal imbalance and so healthy eating has an amazing impact on it. You would be surprised on how many foods really affect your hormone levels and how things like broccoli and other greens can improve any hormonal imbalance. So it is time to look into what we are eating, what we should avoid and what we should focus on.

This is, in a nutshell, what I have been doing to try and take control of my body and PCOS to, hopefully, get pregnant in a near future. The frustration and disappointment every month are real and I know how hard it is to just keep waiting for things to happen but feel like you are in a vicious circle with cycles that never end. I know the struggle. And that is why I feel like I should use my blog to put all the knowledge I have as a nurse and that I have gained since November with my PCOS diagnose and share it all with you and hopefully make your journey a bit easier and less lonely.

Remember: it is better to accept the diagnosis than to ignore it and pretend that the problem isn’t there. The earlier you start changing your lifestyle, the earlier you will see the results. Not only making these changes might help you get pregnant a little bit faster but it will also reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments and I will do my best to reply and if you have any ideas for the next posts, this is the place to leave all the subjects you would like to read on these fertility chats. But remember: always speak to a doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements. Anything that I mention here that works for me, might not work for you. We are all different and our bodies have different needs so be very sensible when making any lifestyle changes or taking any medication.

USEFULL PHONE APPS:

I have also created a new account on instagram @fertilitychats where I will be sharing a lot more about this journey. It would be amazing if you joined me!

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