Posts Tagged ‘PCOS’

One couple’s rocky road to parenthood

Monday, April 25th, 2016

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are grateful that one mom shared her story with us. We hope that her journey will inspire others who may be on this path.

Infertility is a journey. And every journey looks different. Some end in happiness and some do not.

In early 2015, after 3 years of trying to get pregnant, my husband and I found out that we were expecting. After all of the roadblocks we had hit along the way, hearing, “you’re pregnant” was surreal. The pregnancy was not without challenges, and I was extremely paranoid that we would somehow lose this baby. I am happy to say that my son was born healthy at 38.5 weeks, albeit with a nearly week long NICU stay. But, this happy ending came after a journey of twists and turns and more downs than ups.

I’d wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. . . That sounds so cliché, doesn’t it?

We were young and had only been married for a couple of years when we decided to start a family. We were so naïve and full of hope! I went off my birth control and started actively trying to have a baby. I read everything I could about getting pregnant and started charting my cycles.

When my cycles went from the perfectly timed 28 days to 60 and 70 days, I knew something was off. I did some reading and thought I might have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). (The beauty and danger of the internet!) PCOS happens when you have hormone problems along with cysts on the ovaries. I bought a book, went on a diet and started exercising. I learned everything I could about getting pregnant with PCOS and did my best to take control of my body.

After 6 months of trying to conceive with no luck, my doctor examined me, ran some tests (blood and ultrasound) and confirmed the PCOS diagnosis. She told me that she could write a prescription for Clomid to try and stimulate ovulation. But, she said that before I could start on the Clomid, my husband needed to have a semen analysis. (A large number of infertile couples have both female and male infertility issues, and they don’t want to unnecessarily medicate someone.)

To say that my husband was less than thrilled would be an understatement. It took me a few months to convince him to go for the test. He finally went and when we got the results back we were devastated. His sperm count was very low and the chances of conceiving on our own were basically zero. The doctors told us that they might be able to treat my husband and me, so that we could conceive. Little did we realize that this was just the beginning of years of doctors’ visits, but nevertheless, we jumped in with both feet.

Dealing with infertility can be all-consuming (at least it was for us). I would wake up and go to sleep thinking about it. There was never down time for my brain. I would see a pregnant woman or a couple with a baby and I would feel jealous, angry and sad. Hearing that other couples got pregnant without even trying was overwhelming. . . And the medical bills were never ending. Our insurance didn’t really cover any of our treatments so we paid almost all of it out-of-pocket. We were saving for a down payment on a house when we started trying to have a baby. And after the fertility treatments we were back to square one.

Through all of the doctors’ visits, blood work, ultrasounds and shots, I kept up the hope that someday I would be a mother.

Fast forward…

Now that we’re 6 months into being parents, I can say that I am thankful for my son every day. The first couple of months were incredibly challenging, and the idea that “maybe I wasn’t meant to have kids” crossed my mind frequently. But, I now revel in time spent with my son.

Although at the time, it seemed that the process of trying to conceive was going on and on, with no end in sight, I can say now that it is becoming a distant memory. The intense joy my husband and I feel every time we see the smile on our son’s face or see him hit another milestone, fills me with happiness and pushes the difficult journey of how we got here into the background.

I am sending baby dust to everyone out there struggling with infertility.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts or personal story below.

 

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

sad-womanPolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormones and ovaries. PCOS affects up to 7 percent of women of childbearing age and is the leading cause of female infertility. Some women learn they have PCOS when they have problems becoming pregnant.

Women with PCOS have high levels of male hormones (androgens), which may interfere with normal ovarian function. Affected women often do not ovulate regularly. PCOS also affects other bodily systems, increasing a woman’s risk for diabetes and heart disease. Signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
• Irregular or absent menstrual periods
• Ovaries containing many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs)
• Increased facial hair
• Acne
• Weight gain or obesity
• Male-pattern baldness
• Abnormal blood sugar levels or diabetes
• High blood pressure

The exact cause of PCOS is not known.  However, there are quite a few factors that may play a role:
• Genetics:  Women who have a mother or sister with PCOS, are more likely to develop PCOS.
• Hormonal imbalance: Women who have PCOS seem to make more androgens (male hormones) than women who do not have PCOS.  All women produce some male hormones, but levels that are too high may affect egg development and ovulation.
• Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to convert sugar (glucose) to energy.  Women with PCOS tend to have too much insulin.  And excess insulin seems to result in increased androgen production.

There is no specific diagnostic test for PCOS. Diagnosis is usually based on:
• Signs and symptoms, including menstrual irregularities
• Physical examination
• Blood tests to check androgen and blood sugar levels
• Ultrasound of the ovaries

There is no cure for PCOS so the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent complications.  There are a number of ways that this can be accomplished.  Women with PCOS who are overweight or obese should attempt to lose weight. Women who lose even 10 percent of their body weight can improve menstrual irregularities, lower androgen levels and reduce their risk of diabetes. Weight loss can improve fertility, as well.

Women who do not wish to become pregnant right away can take birth control pills. Birth control pills help to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce androgen levels. In some cases, metformin (Glucophage), an oral diabetes drug, may be used instead of or in addition to birth control pills. Metformin also helps reduce androgen levels and may help with weight loss.

Women who want to get pregnant and are having difficulty conceiving can be treated with medications that stimulate ovulation. If those medications are not successful, other fertility treatments can be considered.

Studies suggest that women with PCOS who become pregnant are at increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (a pregnancy-related form of high blood pressure) and premature birth. Women with PCOS should see their health care provider before pregnancy to make sure any health problems, such as diabetes, are under control, and that any medications they take are safe. When they become pregnant, they should go to all their prenatal appointments so that any complications can be diagnosed and managed before they become serious.

Amenorrhea – missed periods

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

There can be many reasons why a woman might not get her period. For women who are sexually active and in their 20s or 30s, pregnancy is the first thing that pops to mind. If you’re in your 40s or 50s, it could be the beginning of the transition leading to menopause, or perimenopause. Whatever the reason, it’s important to find out why.

Extreme exercise can be a cause. Did you know that between 5% and 25% of female athletes work out so hard that they stop getting their periods? This is called exercise-induced amenorrhea. I had two friends, both avid runners, who were unable to conceive while they were in training and running marathons. Their intense exercise altered the manufacturing and releasing of reproductive hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. While still remaining active, my friends had to significantly dial back their exercise routines before they were able to have children. But both of them went on to have kids.

Another substantial body stressor that can affect the operation of reproductive hormones is a severely changed eating pattern. Women with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa are greatly altering their hormonal balance by depriving their body of nutrition. This can shut down a normal reproductive cycle.

Women who breastfeed often do not see the return of a normal period for many months. This lack of a period does not necessarily mean you’re not ovulating and it is possible to get pregnant during this time.

Medical conditions like problems with your uterus, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)thyroid conditions or pituitary gland disorders, or problems with the hypothalamus can cause amenorrhea. Women who are extremely overweight or obese can lose their period.

If you miss your period for an extended period of time and aren’t sure why, check into it with your health care provider.

How can PCOS interfere with fertility?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, hormones, ability to have children, heart, blood vessels, and appearance (especially excessive hair growth). Although women do  produce small levels of androgens, sometimes called male hormones, women with PCOS  typically have high levels of androgens.  They usually have missed or irregular periods and their ovaries can be swollen with many small cysts.  It is estimated that 6 to 10% of all women of reproductive age have PCOS, and evidence suggests that it may run in some families.

A woman’s ovaries have follicles, which are tiny sacs filled with liquid that hold her eggs. These sacs also are called cysts. For most women, approximately 20 eggs start to mature every month, with only one maturing fully. As this one egg grows, the follicle accumulates fluid in it. When the egg is mature, the follicle breaks open and releases it. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube for fertilization. When the single egg leaves the follicle, ovulation takes place.

In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn’t produce all of the hormones it needs for any of the eggs to fully mature. Follicles may start to grow and build up fluid, but no one follicle becomes large enough. Instead, in some but not all women, some follicles may remain as cysts. Since no follicle becomes large enough and no egg matures or is released, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Additionally, the cysts make male hormones, which also prevent ovulation.

Lack of ovulation is usually the reason for fertility problems in women with PCOS. Several medications that stimulate ovulation can help women with PCOS become pregnant. Even so, other reasons for infertility in both the woman and man should be ruled out before fertility medications are used.  Diet and weight loss are essential for overweight women.