Almost a year ago, I discovered that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which has afforded me time to embrace the fact that maintaining a “healthy me” will require a lifelong commitment to listening to both my mind and body. It is my sincere hope that in sharing my story, at least one woman with either PCOS or issues involving infertility will gain support during her journey towards well-being.
The slow revelation that my body was not functioning properly started a couple months after my husband and I tied the knot in April of 2011. We were ready to start a family and had made the decision that I would cease taking “the pill” shortly after our wedding. Within a couple months, it became quite apparent that my menstrual cycle was not what it had been when I started taking this medication (6 years prior). Mood swings and skin breakouts erupted, weeks on end would pass without my period and I often experienced peaks of adrenaline followed by valleys of fatigue.
Although I was comforted by those around me who lovingly reassured me that I “just needed to be patient” or “this was only a phase that would pass,” my frustration/sadness/and intuition became a strong enough force to move me in the direction of seeking out answers regarding what seemed to be a hormone imbalance. I would soon learn that trying to uncover the source of a health issue can be a long and isolating journey.
In September of 2011, when I met with my OB, she assured me that everything was “normal” and that I really did not need to get my hormone levels checked. I was 31 and a petite 5’2”, thus falling into a category of women who are often overlooked for endocrine disorders. I should have listened to my gut, which was reminding me that a 50-day run of amenorrhoea was far from normal. Instead, I pushed these sentiments aside, assuming I was simply feeling pangs of anxiety, and left this initial appointment embracing my doctor’s no-plan-plan to “wait for things to turn around.”
November came around and the only aspect of this journey that had changed was a heightened sense of despair. The lack of menstruation persisted and I had started to wrap my head around the need to temporarily let go of my excited anticipation of starting a family and, instead, shift my focus to figuring out how to take a more active role in turning this situation around. I sought out a naturopathic doctor and instantly felt a sense of relief when he spent over an hour reviewing my health history with me. The blood work that he ran indicated that my thyroid was functioning well and highlighted certain hormones that were off-balance. He recommended that I start taking a medley of herbal tinctures, but I just wasn’t quite ready to commit to any one approach. Now reflecting on my hesitancy, I realize that I was scared. This was one of the first moments in my life where I had to rely solely on myself to make somewhat of a weighty decision about my health. For some people, healing holistically is the only avenue they would choose, while others feel comfortable only in the care of Western medicine. I could see the pro’s and con’s of both with no sense of clarity.
I decided to step away from these appointments for a month and seek out acupuncture, as I had heard about the benefits of this ancient practice through friends and family. Pushing my fear aside of having needles stuck in pressure points, I booked my first appointment for early January. My acupuncturist was the first person who truly made me feel both hopeful and comforted. Armed with a strong background in nutrition, she focused on the whole picture, including my diet, and reminded me that I could find my natural equilibrium again. There was hope. Aside from making me feel at ease, she was the only person that shed light on the fact that I was most likely sensitive to carbohydrates/sugars and needed more protein in my diet. (note: I would later learn that I have insulin resistance and was astounded she had this insight simply based on a questionnaire I filled out!)
Much to my surprise, when February rolled around, my husband and I received news that he landed a one-year position as a general dentist in Germany, which was an opportunity we could not pass up, as he had longed to live abroad for years. A week prior to this news, I had met with a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility clinic) to test the waters of combining an Eastern and Western approach: continuing acupuncture, while starting to take fertility medication. Although I did not feel comfortable with this particular practice, I did finally walk away with an “answer” – my first diagnosis. After running an ultrasound on my ovaries coupled with reviewing my hormone panel, it was clear that I had PCOS.
I continued acupuncture when I landed in Germany and waited about a month to seek out a reproductive endocrinologist in the area. Upon my German acupuncturist’s recommendation, I met with an RE near her office and from the moment I met with this doctor, I felt confident in his practice. For the first time during this journey, I knew that this was the “right fit.” He spoke slowly and informed me that these procedures take time and that he was very cautious when working with women with PCOS due to the potential for OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). This was quite the opposite vibe of the rushed, aggressive air I felt during my time at the other fertility clinic. I wouldn’t say one clinic is better than the other; rather, what I learned from reflecting on these two operations is how essential it is to let your heart guide you to the situations in life that you, personally, feel most at ease in.
After two rounds of fertility treatment, I became pregnant. I am now almost 34 weeks along and getting more and more excited to meet my little bundle of love. His arrival will mark a new journey for me, and I plan to post about my pursuit in getting my body back on track naturally. Hopefully, fingers crossed, I will be able to share some insight into what does and does not move me towards the ultimate goal of hormone balance, overall mind/body health, and possibly a future pregnancy the “natural” way.
PCOS, journey towards pcos diagnosis, tough to get a pcos diagnosis, hormone imbalance, dealing with hormone imbalance, the value of naturopathic doctors, acupuncture and pcos