PCOS: My Daily Struggle with Angry Ovaries

Sorry I only got around to one post this week. It was a long, drawn out, soul searching week. One you feel like being horizontal staring at the ceiling for. One where you binge watch The Mindy Project because her ridiculous hilarity makes you feel better. I started this past weekend off by getting a pretty bad cold. I pretty much ruined Jimmy and I's Valentines Day by being couped up bra-less in sweat pants surrounded by soggy tissues (don't judge, you've all been there). Then, I finished the week off by having a doctors appointment with Dr. Anil Pinto (a PCOS and fertility specialist). The information I got there was tough and pretty much emotionally exhausted me... I'll fill you all in on what went down later in the post.

So this post I wanted to discuss PCOS. What it is, what it does to me, and what it could possibly mean for our future. What is PCOS? It stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Just looking at those words, one could deduce that PCOS means you have cysts on your ovaries. For many women that is the case, but up to 30% of women with PCOS do not have cysts on their ovaries. PCOS is thought to be one of the leading causes of infertility and it is one of the most frequent endocrine problems in women of reproductive age. Below are some of the common signs and symptoms that women with PCOS may experience.

Signs and Symptoms of PCOS:

1.) Weight gain-- most women with PCOS have weight gain around their mid-section. The glorious "inner tube" look.

2.) Menstrual problems--PCOS mostly causes few menstrual periods or none at all

3.) High levels of male hormones--unwanted facial and body hair growth, acne, thinning of hair or hair loss

4.) Metabolic problems--serum insulin and insulin resistance are higher in women with PCOS

5.) Fertility issues--the excess amount of male hormones affect the production of female hormones necessary for ovulation

The tough part about PCOS is that it is often difficult to diagnose. Many women present with weight gain and we all know how helpful most doctors can be with that. I heard all of these things said to me: "You drink too much wine" (after filling in "social drinker" on my information form), "you need to cut back on the fast food," "Your portions are probably way too big," and "you're probably just eating too much." A couple of times I very openly and dramatically rolled my eyes and said, "Ya, ok, thanks for your medical diagnosis." PCOS is a very misunderstood disease. Not every doctor is going to hear weight gain and anxiety and jump to an ultrasound. Most think you've gotten fat, so therefore you are depressed. Getting someone to listen to me was probably one of the most frustrating things I have ever had to go through. Luckily, PCOS is starting to become more studied. It used to be OBGYNs would put a woman on birth control and many thought that would solve all the problems. Now doctors are testing insulin and glucose levels, LH and FSH levels (usually in women with PCOS, LH is quite high), and serum blood levels of androgens (male hormones that are often elevated). Women are now being treated with birth control (to help normalize menstruation), metformin (improves insulin resistance), and spirinolactone (to help with unwanted hair growth). These are just a few ways the treatment of PCOS has improved.

My journey with PCOS has not been easy. For one, it screws with your head to know that some part of your body is not working and is quite frankly diseased. It sucks. The weight gain and the hormone imbalance has been the hardest part for me. PCOS weight gain is uncontrollable. Even if you workout or eat well the weight either doesn't come off or it comes off a pound a month. I'm going to be real with you guys. I've gained 35 pounds since a little bit before Jimmy and I got married. Its hard on me, but I obviously struggle with what it can do to our marriage. I want to feel beautiful and sexy for my husband. I want to feel like I did when we first met. Take weight gain and mix it with hormone imbalances and that makes for one fun woman. The hormones suck. When I first got diagnosed, my doctor said my estrogen was through the roof. That explained while I cried at the drop of a hat. I wish I could fully explain it. Sometimes it feels like I am exploding from my skin. There is an itch I cannot scratch, a comfort I cannot reach, and a breath I cannot catch. I've escaped to our closet and cried on the floor for reasons I cannot explain. My poor, sweet, patient Jimmy. He knows how bad I feel in these moments and how sorry I am that he has to walk this path with me. He always tells me I am beautiful and each day I try to believe him. It is a struggle I am working on.

I went to Dr. Pinto to get a second opinion on my PCOS management and to also talk to him about a plan for getting pregnant. Jimmy and I want to start trying for a baby this year, but we know having PCOS can make it more difficult. I wanted to ask Dr. Pinto if it is possible to conceive naturally and if so, how long should we try before seeking fertility help. This has been hard for Jimmy and I to talk about. We don't want to believe that we will have trouble. No one wants to think that way. But I also want to be realisitic. I don't want to go into this with my head in the sand and then all of a sudden devastated when we don't get pregnant. I really, really liked Dr. Pinto. A couple of gals I used to work with have beautiful babies with his help and heck, my sister and brother-in-law are pregnant with twins! The man obviously knows what he is doing. He was serious, but kind and I really liked that about him. We talked about PCOS, what it is doing in my body, and tweaked the medications I am taking. Then we did a pelvic ultrasound to check things out. Dr. Pinto's ultrasound machine is connected to a tv on the wall so the patient can see also. On one hand, I liked this because everything was explained to me as we went. On the other hand, it made me sad (is that even the right word? Sad, disgusted, angry?) to see my cyst-covered ovaries on the big screen. I mean there isn't just one or two, my ovaries are covered in cysts.

This terrifies me (I probably should mention that the cysts cannot be removed because they would just grow back). Dr. Pinto then looked at my uterus and said he saw something slightly concerning. He said it looks like I have a uterine septum. This basically means that while I was a growing fetus, my uterus formed with a thick, banana shaped portion. Next week we do a more in depth ultrasound to see how bad the thickening is. If it is very thick, I will need surgery to thin it out if I ever hope to carry a pregnancy. I will say this uterus discovery was like a slap in the face. I knew my ovaries were troubled, but now this. I cried on the way home as I pictured never having a child of my own. I am trying to stay positive, though. I know there are plenty of things we can do to get pregnant, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared. All I have ever wanted was to be a mom. I will keep you all updated on what my next tests show and what the plan ends up being.

I know this was a long post, but I wanted to share this journey with you all. Plus, it helps me to put my fears into words. Sometimes I let things bottle up and that is good for no one.

Thanks for all of the love and support.

Until next time,