Guest post: Dealing with a PCOS Diagnosis

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Today, I bring you a guest post from my brilliant sister who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Though the initial diagnosis was a little scary (you’ll find out why below), she wants to inspire hope in others who are struggling with a PCOS diagnosis and what it all means.

Here are her words:

“After nearly a year of no periods when I came off the pill, I was referred to the gynaecologist at the hospital (since nicknamed Dr Bitchface). She looked at my blood results, did a quick internal scan and announced, “Yes, it’s as I suspected, you have Polycystic Ovaries” without a hint of bedside manner or any explanation of what it was or what that meant. I wasn’t trying to conceive at the time but had an idea it was linked to fertility and knew I wanted children in the future so I started to cry. She looked at me in shock and said something to the effect of “I don’t know why you are getting so worked up, it just means irregular periods. Plenty of people have worse things wrong with them and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have children.”

I felt mortified by her harsh reaction and still none the wiser regarding my prognosis so when I got home I asked Dr Google who informed me that PCOS was going to make me overweight, hairy, spotty and infertile. Nice.

I am now three years on from that original diagnosis and am seven months pregnant. Through speaking to nicer doctors, plenty of background reading and my own experience, I also have a much greater understanding of what Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is and how the condition can be managed. Essentially in terms of fertility, it is a hormone imbalance that can prevent you from ovulating (which in turn means you can’t get pregnant that month). It doesn’t mean that your body can never be pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy;  just that you might need some help with ovulating. It doesn’t mean you need to be overweight or zit-ridden, in fact by keeping an eye on your diet, you can reduce the effect of all the symptoms.

What I didn’t appreciate initially is that Dr Bitchface did me a favour –  knowledge is power. My body raised an alarm to me by not having monthly periods and I got checked out prior to trying to conceive. Armed with a diagnosis before I started my fertility journey meant I was able to buy myself time, cut out some of the heartache that comes with monthly negative pregnancy tests and head for medical intervention sooner.”

Tropical Mango Fertility Smoothie

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The mango tree symbolises love and fertility, and if that is not a good enough reason to chow down on this juicy tropical fruit, then how about the fact that it’s also rich in vitamins, minerals (namely fertility-boosting zinc!) and antioxidants? A half a cup of mango provides half your daily recommended potassium intake – the stuff responsible for healthy cell function – and it’ll give you a shot of selenium and magnesium too, both vital nutrients for fertility. It tastes great blended with coconut water, which is high in potassium, vitamin C, magnesium and electrolytes. It’s also a great drink to gulp if you are pregnant, as it’s traditionally used in tropical climes to alleviate morning sickness, plus its a diuretic so it aids that common pregnancy scourge, constipation. I’ve already waxed lyrical about the benefits of bananas here: http://brollyinababyshower.com/2014/11/17/go-bananas/ which I also love to bung in this yummy smoothie. (Side note: one thing I have discovered from my banana-buying obsession is they are GREAT for freezing, you can then chop them and add them to the smoothie maker straight from frozen). Try this delicious, tropical fertility smoothie.

Ingredients:

1 x banana, chopped (fresh or frozen)

1 x mango, ripe, chopped

250ml coconut water

Directions:

Combine the ingredients in a smoothie maker with ice and blend until smooth, adding more coconut water if necessary.

Top tip: For an extra fertility boost, add maca powder and a spoonful of coconut oil to up your health fat intake.

7 Secret Habits of Women Trying to Get Pregnant

1. You have a secret list of baby names that you update regularly.

tumblr_n6poaeoJqZ1shxe70o1_5002. When a friend steals one of the names on that list, you worry that they’ll be no good ones left by the time you have your baby.

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3. You have stuck your belly out in the mirror to see what you’d look like pregnant, and let a stranger give you a seat on the bus if you’re wearing an unflattering top/are bloated from fertility drugs.

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4. You have looked at unhealthy women with lots of kids and wondered how the hell that happened.

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5. You have lingered too long in the baby department stroking the baby clothes and cooing over the teeny tiny socks, and you know exactly which crib/pram/high chair you want.

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6. All month, you’ll eat anything that promises to boost your fertility.

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7. During ovulation, you have thought about sneaking off to have sex with a (hot/intelligent/genetically vetted) stranger who looks like your husband to see if it might make any difference.

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Go bananas!

banana bread

Bananas are great for both male and female fertility. They help increase sperm quality due to the magnesium content, and they are also packed with potassium and vitamin B – which are both vital nutrients for fertility. They are also a pretty powerful mood-booster as they contain tryptophan which is the building block of serotonin, a happy brain chemical, and bromelain, which can boost sexual desire and get you both in the mood for baby-making. With all these attributes, it’s no wonder I’ve been stocking up on bananas – big time! The problem is they go off pretty quickly, so I’m often left with three or four browning bananas that I don’t want to just chuck out, but won’t have time to eat. I’ve started making banana bread as a way to use them up but also to get my banana fix in a sweet treat. Perfect with your 11am cuppa!

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas,mashed
  • 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (NB If you don’t want to dirty your hands, the back of a spoon worked well to flatten and cream the butter), then add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract and mix. (I didn’t have buttermilk so used lemon juice in normal semi-skimmed milk and it worked a treat). Fold in the flour mixture and pour the mix into a greased loaf tin (a few sprays of Fry Light Sunflower Oil Spray did the trick here). Back for an hour until golden brown, then cool on a rack before serving.

I found this recipe here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/bananabread_85720

I’ve also tried this with a low-cal sugar alternative (Splenda) and whole meal flour and it was just as tasty. You can also add chia seeds for extra crunch and an omega-3 boost.

Dealing with a big fat negative

preg test

After a couple of days of second-guessing symptoms (Was that a period cramp or a pregnancy cramp? Ooh, sore boobs, what does that mean…), it sucks to see those two little words flash up on the pregnancy test: not pregnant. And if, like me, you’re using the ClearBlue Advanced Ovulation Kit (which also tests for pregnancy), the words are supersized in giant white lettering,  like they are literally shouting ‘NOT PREGNANT’ at you. It might as well say, ‘None for you, Gretchen Weiners’. Humph. Surely the people that make these things could come up with a message that doesn’t sound so blunt, like, “Not this month, but keep your chin up,” or “Sorry you’re not pregnant, but have I mentioned how hot you look today?” But then I guess they have to cater for people who are hoping for a negative result, like horny students who’ve skipped a period. Perhaps they could make special tests for them with ‘no’ result messages like, “Phew, you’re not pregnant, go have a Jagerbomb” or “In 15 years, this message will make you cry.” Anyway, I digress. The point is seeing that ‘not pregnant’ message is hard, but here are a few coping strategies that help me.

1. See it as a fresh start

Like a New Year, a fresh cycle brings a host of new and exciting possibilities. As difficult as it is, try not to dwell on the negative result, and look ahead to the next month. Focus on making next month your ‘perfect’ cycle. Right from your first bleed day, your body is gearing up for the next cycle, so do everything you can to nourish your body, eat right and exercise. Over the next ten days, focus on getting your blood pumping around your body and flowing to your uterus.Think of it as prepping a home (i.e. your uterus) for your baby. It’s not ready for them to move in this month, but you’ve got the next few weeks to get it ready. The more blood you can get flowing to your uterus, through exercise, a balanced diet and not getting stressed, the better and more comfortable the home will be, with a soft, thick lining for the embryo to embed itself in next month.

2. Know that your hard work is not wasted

You’ve been eating right, taking care of your body, taking your supplements, exercising and getting your beauty sleep, so when you get that negative result, it’s easy to think your hard work is wasted. Alter your mindset to see it as an accumulative change. It can take your body a few months to react to healthy changes in your lifestyle, so just because you haven’t got the positive result yet, does not mean that what you are doing is not working. All the healthy changes you are making to aid your fertility will benefit your body by helping balance your hormones. It’ll stand you in good stead, not just on your fertility journey, but throughout the next decades into menopause.  Never see it as a wasted effort.

3. Try not to test too early

Testing too early is like opening the oven door too early when you are making a cake. Only 76% of pregnant women got a positive result by testing three days before their period, compared with 96% the day before. Therefore, if you test three days before, you are left in no man’s land wondering if you could be one of those 20% who gets a false negative. Then you have to test again and go through the whole ugly process again… I’m not saying it’s easy (especially for someone as impatient as me) but the longer you can wait, the more definitive an answer you will get. I don’t want to dash your hopes if you think you may have got a false negative – it happens. In fact, someone I know got negative results for five consecutive days after her period was due with her first pregnancy. Just hold off for as long as you can before testing – ideally at least until your period is late. But who am I trying to kid? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

4. Plan to keep busy on your test day

It’s not ideal to have a big event planned with heaps of people – after all, if you do get a positive result, you’re going to want to spend the day getting your head on straight – but plan in advance to keep busy, should the worst happen. Whether it’s plunging into work, treating yourself to a blow dry or just meeting your husband for a fancy lunch, make sure your day consists of more than just staring at the test result, eating biscuits and crying. Plan something fun, even if it’s just a trip to the cinema or the theatre – anything to give yourself a break from the fertility fug. Above all, try and stay positive and remember it’ll happen in the next few months. 

20 Kristen Wiig Reactions Every Woman Struggling To Get Pregnant Has Had…

1. When your fertility specialist is explaining the invasive tests they want to perform on you. Attachment-1

2. When a friend tells you that you are too stressed and “If you relax, it will happen.”

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3. In the one to two weeks post ovulation before your period comes.

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4. When someone says, “It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.”

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5. When your sister tells you she is pregnant. Again.

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6. When your husband gets home from work on a peak day and you march him into the bedroom.

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7. When you have to get trussed up for another friend’s baby shower.

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8. When your period is late.

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9. When your period arrives.

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10. When your fertility doctor makes you take a chlamydia test.

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11. When you get heartburn/cramps/sore boobs and you start maniacally googling to see if it might mean you are pregnant.

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12. When you find out how much acupuncture/IVF/basically any treatment to do with fertility costs.

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13. When you take a pregnancy test and have to wait a gruelling five minutes, then get a negative result.

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14. When someone advises you that “You can’t make this fertility stuff your only focus.”

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15. When your husband wants sex outside your fertility window.

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16. When you phone your doctor for test results.

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17. When you’re trying to get in the mood after five consecutive days of baby-making sex.

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18. When you fake enthusiasm because you’re worried your sex life has become too mechanical.

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19. When someone tells you, “You’ll be pregnant by next year.”Attachment-1-2

20. When your mother-in-law drops hints that she “Can’t wait to be a grandmother.”

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