Pregnancy is POSSIBLE with PCOS. Our Rainbow Baby
Well the past several months have been a complete whirlwind..I was planning on having another fertility surgery in late July, this one more invasive than the last to fix a blocked tube. But the day before surgery we found out I'm pregnant! This is my second pregnancy although the first one ended in miscarriage earlier this year. We are shocked, thrilled, blessed, scared..so many emotions going on. Obviously after going through a miscarriage just a few months ago, that was my biggest fear the first trimester. I really tried not to let fear take over but sometimes it just did.
I just wanted to share this news with everyone in an effort to give hope to women out there who are struggling or feel like they are failures. It took us over 6 years to get pregnant. It was the hardest thing I've ever been through along with my miscarriage.
Now that I'm pregnant and reflecting back on all we did (and my great doctor did) to get us where we are, I feel emotionally and physically drained. Looking back on the past six years of trying to conceive, I don't know how we got through some of those days. I still remember that spring day in 2010 when my doctor I was seeing at the time called me, "You have a 0-4% chance of ever getting pregnant. I don't feel like there's anything else I can do to help." I got off the phone and told my husband, and I remember how lost we felt. Over the next few years, I changed my diet, eliminated chemicals in my environment, and researched everything I could possibly read about PCOS. I became healthier in the process. Emotionally it wasn't always easy. A lot of nights I would cry myself to sleep on Patrick's shoulder because I thought I may never become a mom.
So if you have been told pregnancy is not possible just because you have PCOS and screwed up hormones, seek out another doctor and stay strong! At that point in our journey, we found a new doctor who started me on a charting method and performed a few surgeries. In between this time, we felt called to adoption and eventually adopted a precious baby boy. I became a mother and am very blessed to have experienced the miracle of adoption.
Infertility is difficult for others to understand, but if you're going through it you know what a roller coaster each month can be. Even when it seemed so impossible, I would have this silly hope towards the end of my cycle and then my period would come or a negative pregnancy test and my hopes were crushed. I can remember days when my period came and I would hyperventilate crying on the bathroom floor. Sometimes the disappointment and failure was too great a burden to handle. I felt like such a failure as a woman and it was difficult not to put all my identity in being infertile and broken. Then there are days you are bombarded with pregnancy announcements or surrounded by other pregnant women. While you are so happy for them, it reminds you of your emptiness.
I mourned every month that the single pink line on the pregnancy test stared back at me. I never could fully comprehend what two pink lines would look like. I really hope this post and my story brings hope to someone out there. I'm not going to be posting pregnancy photos and ultrasound pictures on here. I know there's a lot of women reading who are still struggling and in pain. I just hope that if this desire is still in your heart that you don't give up because of what someone says. That being said, you have to know when you reached a point where you can't handle anymore. My husband and I had decided that this surgery I was supposed to have was probably the last thing we would do in our infertility journey. He encouraged me to let go of this strong desire to conceive because he was so tired of seeing me hurting, but I felt a strong calling to just try a little longer..to give a little more.
So for the woman out there who is in the midst of mourning month after month of negative pregnancy tests, for the woman who is sitting at the baby shower feeling so lonely and broken, for the woman who is waiting on the adoption list and jumping for her phone every time it rings, for the woman who is grieving the loss of a baby she carried and loved and fought for but never met, please hold on to hope.
I wanted to share the main things I've done that I truly believe helped me get pregnant and regulate my hormones as a woman with PCOS. The first fews years we tried to conceive, I wasn't even ovulating. My hormones were so so messed up. There were several years when clomid couldn't even make me ovulate. I felt helpless, but you CAN take a handle on your PCOS. No there is no cure, but your diet and lifestyle can drastically improve your health and chances of conceiving. Most importantly I believe our baby is a miracle and wouldn't be here if it weren't for God's works and timing.. that's why #1 is prayer.
What helped me get pregnant
Ask your doctor before starting any supplements! I'm a dietitian, not a doctor and I sought the help and advice of my doctor before starting any supplements. These are just suggestions of what helped me. If any of them interest you, do some research and take it to your doctor!
1. Prayer, Bible time- Never stop asking God for the desires of your heart. But also pray for acceptance of his timing, trust, and faith.
2. A doctor who was committed to helping me and not just covering up my symptoms by handing me a prescription and rushing me out the door. It wasn't until 3 years into our infertility journey that I finally found a great doctor. I drove over an hour to get to his office but it was so worth the extra time and effort!! My doctor invested a lot of time and energy to find out what my specific problems were and how to fix them. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a doctor like this especially because PCOS is so different from woman to woman. All the doctors I saw before him just put me on clomid and when that didn't work they said they couldn't help. I also sought the help of a naturopathic doctor, just to help me with adding a holistic approach to fighting PCOS. She helped me greatly with what supplements to take based on my lab values (see NAC and myo inositol below).
3. Creighton charting method- a way to chart my cycles and ovulation. If you have irregular cycles with PCOS, charting can really help you identify your days of fertility.
4. Ovarian wedge resection surgery in 2011. After this surgery I went from never ovulating to ovulating several times a year. (I had ovarian drilling in 2010 but this surgery didn't help at all and is just a temporary fix)
5. Laparoscopy to look around and fix a blocked tube.
6. Complete diet change- low carbohydrate, high fat, moderate protein. No processed, no refined sugars, no gluten, no dairy (There's a lot of evidence that women with PCOS are gluten intolerant and can't handle dairy.), no veggie oils, no caffeine. I did treat myself every now and then to coconut milk ice cream, dark chocolate, wine, and organic coffee. Try to buy organic fruits and veggies, grass fed beef, organic chicken, and soy free eggs.
7. Blood sugar control- I constantly struggled with hypoglycemic episodes and never understood the connection until I researched PCOS more. I examined my diet and realized I wasn't eating enough fat and too many carbohydrates. Changing my diet by eating high fat/low carb and eliminating gluten and refined carbohydrates, ended my blood sugar roller coaster episodes. Myo-inositol (see #8) also greatly helped me with blood sugar control.
8. Myo-inositol- I took a scoop each morning (I used pregnitude for a year or so but wanted to get away from synthetic folic acid). Myo-inostiol helped greatly especially with my blood sugars.
9. NAC- My naturopath dr recommended this supplement to promote ovulation. I started taking it right after my miscarriage and I noticed a huge difference in the regularity of my cycles and frequency of ovulation very quickly after starting NAC!
10. Fish oil- Great for omega-3s!
11. Prenatal Vitamin- I switched to a prenatal that contains folate instead of folic acid. Read this article by Grass fed girl on folate vs folic acid.
12. Vitamin D- A lot of women with PCOS are deficient in this vitamin. Get tested and supplement if needed.
13. Have your thyroid checked! There are a lot of studies showing a connection between thyroid issues and PCOS. My thyroid labs always came back normal but according to my naturopathic doctor, my levels were sub-optimal and on the low end. Right after my miscarriage, she started me on selenium to improve my thyroid health.
14. Exercise- I did cardio, weights and yoga several times a week. I also made sure not to do too much strenuous activity or cardio. I rested when I felt I needed to.
15. Stress Reduction- No I'm NOT promoting the saying "just relax and you will get pregnant!" This is such a horrible comment that I got far too often. When you have PCOS, stress reduction will help your symptoms but not cure you. Anyway, do what brings you peace- yoga, meditation, reading, etc.
16. Getting away from chemicals- I made my own green cleaners or used Seventh Generation cleaners, dish soap, laundry detergent etc.
17. Organic bedding- I switched to organic sheets (Target has very affordable ones). I want to also get an organic mattress and comforter but you gotta do what you can afford.
18. Makeup- I use 100% Pure make up and love it! A lot of makeup out there has parabens and all kinds of chemicals you don't want to be putting on your face. No you're not eating it but anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your body! Buy natural soaps and shampoos or try using this apple cider vinegar and baking soda method which I'm slowly switching to!
19. Make your own deodorant and definitely stay away from antipersperants.
20. Don't use plastic especially as food storage. Buy a glass water bottle. Throw away any teflon pans that you cook with. I use our cast iron skillet every morning to cook eggs and love it!
21. Buy and read the book The Woman Code. It's the best book I've ever read about PCOS and why you have the symptoms you do. It also empowers you with changes to make!
22. Acupuncture- I can't personally attest this helped me because I went so infrequently due to the financial cost of acupuncture. But every time I went, I felt so relaxed during and afterwards and definitely think it can help with PCOS.
Don't be overwhelmed looking at this list!! I once did a lot of these "no-no's" and just started slowly changing things. You will be healthier as a PCOS woman to eat healthy, exercise and take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
And if you are interested in adoption, I can speak from first hand experience that it is a beautiful way to grow a family and not a lesser choice or second option:) It can be an uncertain and lengthly process, but so worth it in the end. Adoption has blessed our family greatly and I would go through all that heartbreak and pain again just to have our son.
Here are a few lyrics from two songs that carried me through...
"What Faith Can Do" by Kutless
Everybody falls sometimes Gotta find the strength to rise From the ashes and make a new beginning Anyone can feel the ache You think it's more than you can take But you are stronger, stronger than you know Don't you give up now The sun will soon be shining You gotta face the clouds To find the silver lining
I've seen dreams that move the mountains Hope that doesn't ever end Even when the sky is falling And I've seen miracles just happen Silent prayers get answered Broken hearts become brand new That's what faith can do
It doesn't matter what you've heard Impossible is not a word It's just a reason for someone not to try Everybody's scared to death When they decide to take that step Out on the water It'll be alright Life is so much more Than what your eyes are seeing You will find your way If you keep believing
"Need You Now" by Plumb
Well, everybody's got a story to tell And everybody's got a wound to be healed I want to believe there's beauty here 'Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on I can't let go, I can't move on I want to believe there's meaning here
How many times have you heard me cry out "God please take this"? How many times have you given me strength to Just keep breathing? Oh I need you God, I need you now.
Standing on a road I didn't plan Wondering how I got to where I am I'm trying to hear that still small voice I'm trying to hear above the noise
Though I walk, Though I walk through the shadows And I, I am so afraid Please stay, please stay right beside me With every single step I take
How many times have you heard me cry out? And how many times have you given me strength?