Growing up I always knew there was something not right with my periods. I was almost 15 before I started my period and they were SUPER irregular from the get go. Like, maybe a few a year. I went to a few doctors and got the same story, lose weight. I was prescribed diet pills and sent to nutritionists. I already had a really toxic relationship with my body, so this didn’t help. When I was around 20 one doctor even told me I’d never have children.
As a fat person I had a lot of trauma surrounding my weight and doctors. I can easily count on both hands the number of times I went to a doctor sick and got a lecture about my weight. I got to a point where I stopped going to the doctor. I was tired of being shamed every time I went. I had no other health issues (and trust me… they checked every time). So I just put my health on the back burner and hoped for the best.
It wasn’t until I was almost 30, when I got married and wanted to start a family, that I started to worry and wonder about my lack of periods. When, after a year of trying, I didn’t get pregnant I knew it was time to seek help. I was so scared. Scared that I’d be told (again) that I wouldn’t have children. Scared that I’d be shamed or humiliated yet again for my weight. Scared of what kind of diagnosis I might get.
During my first appointment with my Reproductive Endocrinologist she discovered I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). During my lifetime I’d been told it was a possibility, but this was the first time someone confirmed it for me. Previous doctors had just told me to lose weight or to stop eating gluten and dairy and it would go away… so not true!
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 10 women.
PCOS can cause missed and irregular periods, which can lead to infertility and cysts in the ovaries. My PCOS was diagnosed after an ultrasound of my ovaries revealed a bunch of tiny little cysts throughout. I also had some of the other classic markers of PCOS…thinning hair, excessive facial/body hair, fatigue, anxiety/depression, trouble losing weight, and insulin resistance.
As hard as it was to get the diagnosis, it was such a relief! It was so validating to know there was something going on; that I wasn’t wrong. Having a diagnosis gave me hope. We did nine months of fertility treatments with one miscarriage early on. When the additional treatments didn’t work, we decided to pause fertility treatments. My body and mind were both exhausted. It was then that we began pursuing adoption, and in 2017 we brought home our amazing baby boy. It was a long journey to that point, but every moment was worth it.
In 2020 we welcomed our second baby boy to our family through embryo adoption. My health, specifically my PCOS, definitely impacted my pregnancy. I ended up with Gestational Diabetes, which is common for those with PCOS, especially those of us who are insulin resistant.
Even scarier though was that our new son was born with low blood sugar and jaundice. Other than that he is a totally healthy guy, but I felt so bad at first for what I had done to him. The heel pricks he had to get to test his blood DAILY, the bilirubin light, all the doctor and lactation appointments, the weight loss from the jaundice…I felt so guilty.
With the birth of my third son in 2022, I encountered many of the same issues, but this time I developed preeclampsia as well. The whole pregnancy was so stressful, but luckily I had an amazing team that took such good care of me.
There is a lot of shame associated with PCOS. Many people think that only folks in larger bodies can develop it, or that if you have it it’s because of your diet. The stigma around PCOS is part of the reason I didn’t seek a diagnosis sooner. It makes me sad that I wasted so much time being ashamed instead of getting the help I needed to care for my body.
The good news is that I found an amazing doctor who has been helping me manage my PCOS in ways that make me feel good, not ashamed. Having a supportive health care provider who listens to you is so important. Definitely advocate for yourself and your health if you feel you aren’t being heard or that you’re being shamed. You deserve excellent care no matter your diagnosis.