Infertility looks different for everyone but for me, PCOS is the root of it all. Finding out you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can be scary. Not knowing you have it and trying to become pregnant with no success makes it down right frustrating.
When Kyle and I decided to have a baby, we were in our mid 20’s, young, healthy and full of excitement and anticipation to become parents. Both of us were physically in great shape, were ever hardly sick even with the flu, I mean really the only thing we battled was seasonal allergies. Thinking we would have issues conceiving never even crossed our minds. And to top that off, all of our friends were having babies without a problem so we were living in this naive fairyland that you get off the pill, try for a few short months, get pregnant, have nine months of cute baby bump pics and then have your sweet cooing baby in your arms.
Except that’s not how things went. I went off the pill and we had fun trying but not really trying. After a couple months of negative pregnancy tests, we started to get a little more serious and downloaded apps, tried ovulation kits and all the wives’ tales about getting pregnant. Nothing worked and we were getting frustrated – the feelings of “what is wrong with me” started to set in and it took a huge toll on my mental health and our relationship.
I also started having some of the common symptoms of PCOS – although, at the time, I had no idea that was my issue. My hair was falling out in clumps, my hair dresser guessed that I had lost 20% of my hair. I had embarrassing acne. Then I started having really abnormal periods and severe bleeding, which – combined with a year of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant – prompted me to make an appointment with my OBGYN. (You can read more about my symptoms here.)
My doctor finally ran some basic tests to see what was going on. The ultrasound quickly showed the issue – I had PCOS. My ovaries basically looked like chocolate chip cookies. There were so many small follicles sprouting up instead of a dominate one that would release a mature egg. The blood test quickly confirmed that my hormones were totally out of whack. Furthermore, my periods, which we all over the map, also supported this diagnosis.
My doctor prescribed Clomid – which made me the crazy hormonal lady you hear about (read all about that here) – to treat my PCOS, as it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. (Ultimately, Clomid didn’t work for us, as we would find out later there were also male infertility factors preventing us from getting pregnant and IVF was our only option.)
I was shocked to learn how common PCOS is. Here are some facts and signs that you may have PCOS:
- PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.
- Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health and appearance.
- PCOS can cause missed or irregular periods, which can lead to infertility and/or development of cysts in the ovaries.
- POCS is one of the most common, but treatable, causes of infertility in women.
- In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant.
- Symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, too much body hair, acne, thinning hair, weight gain, darkening of the skin and skin tags.
- Less than 50% of women are properly diagnosed with PCOS.
- The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but most experts think that several factors, including genetics play a role.
- There is no cure for PCOS, but you can manage the symptoms and help your chances of getting pregnant if you have PCOS through medicine, such as Clomid, or ultimately IVF.
While we were relieved to finally have some answers, it was so disheartening to know that we had spent a year trying and failing to become pregnant.
What’s encouraging now is that since trying for Brexton almost 6 years ago, infertility, and all that goes along with it, is much more commonly talked about.
What’s still frustrating, though, is that basic proactive tests to help couples know if they have underlying fertility issues are still not covered by insurance. Just three simple tests could help alleviate so much pain associated with failed pregnancy tests. A woman should have a blood sample drawn to teat various hormone levels along with an ultrasound to look at her ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. A male should have a sperm sample tested. Doing these very basic things could save couples so much heartache, not to mention, money.
Can you believe that these basic proactive fertility hormone tests are not covered by federal insurance? In some states, reactive “infertility” testing can be covered – but you have to prove that you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year. If you don’t have coverage, these tests can run upwards of $1,500 at the doctor – that you are stuck paying out-of-pocket.
The good news is that there is now an at-home kit from Modern Fertility for $159 that tests your hormone levels and offer insight into what those levels mean for conditions like POI or PCOS, egg freezing and IVF and even menopause onset. It’s important to note that this test won’t tell you if you’re infertile – there is no absolute predictor of fertility. But it can indicate potential issues and also help you keep track over time so that you know where you are and can get ahead of discussions with your doctor or partner, financial decisions or treatment plans.
The test can be delivered to your door, or you can take it to a Quest Lab and get help administering it. Each test is customized by your birth control, and the results are explained in basic lingo that we can all understand and reviewed by a doctor. If you’re wondering what exactly a fertility hormone test can tell you, here are some answers from Modern Fertility:
- If you have more or fewer eggs than average
- If you may hit menopause earlier or later than average
- Understand egg freezing or IVF outcomes
- Explain how your general health relates to your hormones
- Help you understand PCOS
- Help you check general body factors, like thyroid, that can affect fertility
I’m so thankful to Modern Fertility for realizing the bigger issue – that tests related to fertility are far too expensive and should be covered by insurance. They have created a comprehensive solution that is more affordable for women and arms them with vital knowledge to take to their doctors so that they are not told to keep trying for a year or “just relax” and it will happen.
I’m so excited to be partnering with Modern Fertility during National Infertility Awareness Week® to giveaway five (5) kits to women who may be struggling to conceive or who just want to know what their future might look like. Head over to my Instagram to enter the giveaway and be sure to share it with anyone you think could benefit from the test.
Also, Modern Fertility has been so generous to donate $10 to the Bundle of Joy Fund for every kit sold during National Infertility Awareness Week. Please visit this direct link to purchase your kit. modernfertility.com/bundleofjoy
I know the heartache I could have saved myself and our marriage with this information. If you are struggling with PCOS or infertility, please know that you are not alone and I am always here to talk.