Infertility Through the Lens of PCOS and Endometriosis

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About five months after we were married, my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby. I was still finishing my second degree, but we knew it most likely wouldn’t happen right away, and we were eager to get our family started. So, I ditched the pill. Then something happened or didn’t I should say: my periods stopped.

You hear about people struggling to get pregnant. You think you can sympathize, understand how that must feel. Yet, nothing can prepare you for the gut-punching news that you’re a 1 in 8. Something that seems so basic and elemental to the human population is not going to come easy to you.

The Diagnosis

Just a few months after I went off the pill, I had my annual OBGYN appointment. Thanks to the quick action of my practitioner, an ultrasound and blood work conclusively diagnosed me with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). All of a sudden, over 10 years of struggling with female part-related issues culminated into a diagnosis. 

From the moment I began my period in sixth grade gym class (I know, right?), I struggled. My periods were irregular, I was all of a sudden diagnosed with hypoglycemia, my progesterone was super low, I had unexplained pain that led to laparoscopy surgeries, yet…no answers. Most ER doctors tried attributing my pain to PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), but my mom and I knew that wasn’t it. After four years of hospitals, tests, and no answers, I took my birth control pack and resumed a somewhat normal life.

I was started on Metformin right away to see if that would do the trick. One month into the medication with no noticeable changes, my doctor presented me with a few more options or a recommendation for a reproductive endocrinologist.  I was done messing around, so I made an appointment with the endocrinologist.

One could say it’s almost an out of body experience to be diagnosed with infertility and unable to conceive a child you have waited your entire life for. The feelings of emotional turmoil you endure is the equivalent to the steps of grief. In the end, you never truly recover.

After our first series of tests, I was given the “Chlomid challenge” to test ovulation; I failed. We knew going forward I would need to use only injectable medications to stimulate and trigger ovulation. I quickly became an expert at sticking myself as my husband peered at me around the bathroom door-frame with half an eyeball asking if I needed help. Bless him.

Treatments

We did a total of three IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination) rounds, one being a double insemination before we decided to move forward with IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). This may not seem like a lot of treatments, but they took a long time for us due to a lesser known condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (or OHSS). It’s one of those things that your doctor or nurse will lightly brush over as some rare thing that could happen as an effect of all the medications, and you sign off on it along with hundreds of other possibilities. It doesn’t matter; you want a baby.

Women with PCOS are more at risk for OHSS. I suffered with fluid retention and extremely swollen ovaries after every cycle. I would have to rest and be on a high protein and electrolyte diet to help reduce the effects of fluid loss and swelling in the ovaries. Due to this happening, we would have to wait 1-2 months between each cycle before we could try again.

 

Almost two weeks after our embryo transfer, I was in agonizing pain. I could not breathe, and my abdomen was so swollen I looked four months pregnant. I went to see my doctor, and she sent me to the hospital for tests and then home to await the result. My doctor called with the results that I had severe hyperstimulation, cases like this she only saw every two to three years, and I had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. It was during this stay that we received the results of our first IVF round.

As I was lying there in my drug-induced state in and out of sleep after a pretty sleepless night in the hospital, my doctor came in, took my hand, and told me congratulations. I could not believe it and asked her if she was serious, started to sob, and then she started to cry with me. I could not thank her enough and never can! I was beginning to doubt that we would ever hear this great news from our doctor, but our day had finally come even if it was not in the way I imagined.

The Struggle Never Truly Ends

I spent almost a week in the hospital before I was well enough to be released but was still on bed rest when I went home. I was on and off of bed rest my entire pregnancy (twin boys, by the way) until I went into pre-mature labor at 26 weeks and delivered at 31 weeks. (I’ll save that story for another day).

Unfortunately, PCOS and endometriosis have effects far more reaching than infertility. As I finish writing this, I am in bed after being in the hospital a couple days ago due to a bad flare up and cyst rupture. I’ve had surgeries and have been on pain medications and other medications including injections to help with my conditions as needed. (I truly thought I was done with injections after infertility but guess I was wrong).

I’m Here For You

If you are going through infertility, especially if it’s PCOS and/or endometriosis-related, please remember you are not alone. And if you feel you have no one, I am here. Reach out to me any time. I have always been open and honest about our story and our struggles, and because of this, I have had countless women and men reach out to me. I am honored to help in any way I can and will always be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a voice of knowledge if you need it.

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