I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 14. At what was probably my very first visit to the gynecologist, she asked me the dreaded question:
“When was your last menstrual period?”
This was an awkward question to answer, because to my confusion, I was not getting my period every month like my other friends were.
“Are you sexually active?” Ew, gross, no. Because, at the ripe age of 14, if I hadn’t gotten my period in months, of course, I was pregnant.
For those who don’t know, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that causes irregular periods in women, with a variety of other symptoms including hair growth in unwanted places, being overweight/obesity, and infertility. At this doctor’s visit, she also informed me that infertility and PCOS are – ironically – hereditary. My grandmother had irregular periods, and so did my mother and sister. All of us went on to have children.
And so was the beginning of what continues to be a mystery in my body. Having a regular cycle continues to be an elusive endeavor. I look back on over 2 decades of what has been an experiment in taking oral birth control, changing my diet, exercising, acupuncture, herbs, and fertility drugs – all for the sake of having a “normal” female body and trying to get pregnant.
The thing about PCOS is that it does not look the same in everyone. Some women struggle with more extreme symptoms than others. Although I was slightly overweight when I began puberty, I was never obese, nor did I have noticeably excessive facial hair. Many women with PCOS are also diabetic and have unusually high blood sugar. My blood tests always came back normal.
There have been times when I have visited gynecologists and asked them, “Do I really have PCOS? I don’t have all of these other textbook symptoms. The only thing that happens is that I get my period only a few times a year.” One doctor informed me that having irregular periods is enough to make a PCOS diagnosis.
When my husband and I made the decision to have children, I was confronted with having to learn about my almost non-existent cycles. I read many books on fertility and how to track cycles by monitoring my morning temperatures – and yes – cervical mucus (yay!) These so-called “tried and true” methods of understanding when ovulation occurred left me more confused about my body than ever. I never experienced a temperature spike or “Mittleschmerz” ovulation cramps.
Despite my befuddlement with this whole process, my husband encouraged me to try Clomid after 8 months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant. After my first round, I had a positive pregnancy test. At our first 8 week ultrasound, we learned I was pregnant with twins. Of course, the rest is history.
If any readers out there are struggling with PCOS and trying to get pregnant, I understand what you are going through. Stay positive and as difficult as it seems, enjoy the journey.