September is PCOS Awareness Month. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome affects as many as 5 million women in the United States alone and is often one of the most undiagnosed endocrine disorders in women. PCOS doesn’t just impact a woman’s fertility; it can affect her mood, weight and even lifelong health. Here at The Infertility Voice, we’re observing PCOS Awareness Month by featuring a guest post in our Voices of PCOS series each Thursday of this month.
PCOS (Or Why I’m Obsessed With Polka Dots)
It started in college. I was a freshman. And severely polka dotted.
The rash covered my arms and legs. Circular sores that gave me the appearance of a perpetual case of the chicken pox. This displeased me. I’d visited no fewer than seven dermatologists. The unanimous diagnosis being, “Sucks to be you.”
Freshman years were never kind to me. I got my first period on the first day of my freshman year of high school. I’d had five since.
Midway through my collegiate exercise in epidermal patterns, I decided to forgo yet another skin doctor and instead visit an OB-GYN. I’d gotten my period two months prior. And I was sick of it. Now, granted I had limited experience with this womanly cycle thing, but two months straight? This was ridiculous.
With little fanfare I was handed a prescription for birth control and informed I had PCOS.
“You likely won’t be able to have children. But birth control should control the cysts so you don’t always look like you’re pregnant.”
Um…thanks? I took that last statement to heart far more than the first. I was 20. The goal of the game was to NOT get pregnant. And I was preoccupied with avoiding the feared Freshman 15.
For the next decade, my period came every 28 days. Like clockwork. I never again thought about the bitchy doc who’d told me I was fat. (Never underestimate the ability of a co-ed to jump to the worst possible conclusion. But let’s just blame hormones, shall we?)
Then several months after I got married, I made an appointment with my doc. (This was a new one. I liked her.) “My husband and I want to have a baby,” I declared.
“Simple,” she replied. “Just stop taking the pills.”
So I did. Guess what didn’t happen? But hey – these things take time right?
Several months later, I returned to the nice doctor for my annual checkup. The nurse swooped in to get my basic vitals. Amid the ripping Velcro of the blood pressure cuff, she causally asked me for the date of my last period.
63 days, I replied. (Trying to get pregnant. There’s totally an app for that.)
The nurse’s eyes lit up. Knowing precisely what was coming next, I jumped in to tell her I was decidedly not pregnant. She was skeptical. I could see the wheels turning in her head – undoubtedly she believed I’d TOTALLY misunderstood the birds and the bees conversation, possibly thinking I wasn’t pregnant simply because there was no long-necked wading bird in the exam room with us.
I wasn’t pregnant. (Told you so.)
A year later, I was off the birth control pill but now consuming/injecting a whole host of other hormones. You know you’re ready for the trials and tribulations of motherhood when routinely stabbing yourself with hypodermic needles sounds like a fabulous idea. Bring on the red hazardous waste bin! It totally matches the nursery!
And I looked three months pregnant. Easily.
At my next REI clinic checkup (serving reproductive, endocrine, infertility disorders – not expensive sporting goods), an ultrasound showed a cyst the size of a 4-week old embryo. Yay?
The nurse practitioner brought up the subject of PCOS. Do you have:
- Acne – Doesn’t every teenager/young adult/adult? Come on, I’ve seen the tv commercials for ProActiv.
- Weight gain – Take another look at my medical chart there and look at how many hormones you’re stuffing me full of.
- Thicker/darker hair – I’m Irish/Italian. Dark hair, fair skin.
- Irregular periods – Well sure. At least when I’m not on the birth control pill. The pill totally invalidated that issue.
- Depression – Funny you should ask about that.
- Fertility issues – Um, kinda the whole reason I’m here. Thank you Captain Obvious. Oh, you mean miscarriages? Yeah. At this point I’d lost two pregnancies.
And then the piece de résistance.
- A rash – HOLY SHIT! The polka dots!
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common endocrine disorders around. It isn’t just a fertility issue – that’s simply a major symptom because many doctors treat underlying issues with the birth control pill – to regulate hormones.
And I’m pleased to say that retro polka dots are now one of my favorite fashion choices. Because I’m a big fan of having them on my clothes. Not on me.
Corporate writer by day, mommy blogger by night, Tricia is raising twin toddlers – Search and Destroy. Instead of having one baby after 9 months, she had two after 6; she’s efficient like that. Tricia is a hybrid – running on coffee and chocolate. You can also find her rambling on her personal blog: Stream Of The Conscious or tweeting away @tcstream.
Thank you Tricia for reaching out to me and for sharing your story. If you have PCOS, how were you diagnosed? And don’t forget to tune in next Thursday when we hear from Gabriela Rosa at Natural Fertility Breakthrough!