PCOS: my journey to motherhood

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When my gynaecologist told me I had PCOS, I didn’t think much of it, until that is, she said that it could have severe negative effects on me trying to conceive. I remember my heart stopping when she said this – all I had ever wanted to do was to have baby of my own. This diagnosis marked the beginning of my two-and-a-half-year battle with “infertility”, which I am glad to say, I finally overcame.

I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed with the syndrome, but I had been displaying symptoms of PCOS since my early teens. The symptoms I thought were just the result of unfortunate genes – excessive hairiness (which I put down to my Italian heritage), bad skin and stubborn extra weight that was exceptionally difficult to lose. The one and only symptom that I mistakenly and very naively thought was not too bad, was the fact that I only menstruated around three to six times a year.

All of these symptoms, bar the hairiness, tended to disappear when I was on the contraceptive pill – unlike most of my friends, I actually lost weight on the pill, my skin cleared up and my periods became to-the-minute regular – that is, until I stopped taking it, and then everything returned to the way it was before.

Even though I had been going for annual pap smears since I was 18 years old (cervical cancer is common in my family), not one of the gynaecologists I went to actually diagnosed me with PCOS. Fortunately, my current gynaecologist, Dr Sumayya Ebrahim made the diagnosis during my annual visit, after I told her that I was having trouble falling pregnant after being off the pill for a year. She told me that she could prescribe some medication, called Clomid, which ought to induce ovulation.

Dr Ebrahim spoke to me at length about the side effects of Clomid, informing me that like all drugs, Clomid affects each individual differently. She listed the common side effects as including abdominal bloating, abdominal and breast tenderness, skin changes, headaches and mood swings. What she failed to impress on me however, was that Clomid would not only make me ovulate, but that it would turn me into a hormonal, raving mad, devil woman, who truly and honestly thought she was losing her mind. Not only did this put strain on my marriage, but it went so far that I sought the advice of a psychologist, who informed me that it was probably the Clomid that was making me feel this way.

 I decided to stop taking the medication and my mental state immediately improved. I consulted with Dr Ebrahim again, telling her that I had decided to stop taking Clomid, and she said that the next feasible option was to visit a fertility clinic. The idea of visiting a fertility clinic scared me – from the perspective of the hormonal and emotional ordeal it promised, as well as the exorbitant cost.

I understood that ultimately I would pay anything to become a mother, but I was also desperately looking for a more “natural” alternative that wouldn’t transform me into the hormonal heap of emotions that put such strain on me and my relationship. It was around this time that my sister-in-law told me that her sister, another sufferer of PCOS, had recently fallen pregnant by undergoing treatment from homeopath, Dr JP Prinsloo. I got his number and travelled all the way from Johannesburg to visit him in Pretoria.

Dr Prinsloo spoke to me for an hour – asking me a wide range of various questions, which I remember thinking were relatively irrelevant, but I answered them anyway. After that, he pricked my finger, took a sample of my blood on a glass slide and disappeared into his back rooms to diagnose it. After 10 or 15 minutes, he returned and advised me to stop using any form of lubricant, to use pads instead of tampons, and to take the drops and pills he had prescribed three times a day. He also told me not to worry about quitting smoking just yet, as it would stress me out and that stress is far more damaging for possible conception than smoking is. His advice to me was to carry on as normal – to enjoy life, have fun with my husband and to try and forget about babies.

I felt completely normal and at ease on Dr Prinsloo’s treatment, however, after taking it for eight months, nothing much happened, I lost faith in the treatment and stopped taking it. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would need to go to a fertility clinic, Vitalab, and made an appointment for a month’s time. My husband came with me to the clinic, where the fertility specialist, Dr Stephan Volschenk, asked me a few questions and performed an internal ultra sound examination, where he showed us my ovaries and the cysts. As expected, he diagnosed me PCOS and explained that I should expect a difficult road ahead to successfully fall pregnant. After seeing him, I was transferred to one of his consulting nurses, who prescribed the various medication and a blood test once my first menstrual cycle started.

Exactly four days later, I went for lunch with my older sister, Nicolina. I told her about the pending treatment and during the course of the meal, I also complained of my breasts being sore, which I thought was a good sign as it probably signalled the beginning of my period. Nicolina was insistent that I take a pregnancy test, even though I shirked her off believing that this was an impossibility, especially in light of the fact that I had just been to see a specialist.

“Surely he would’ve picked up on the fact that I was pregnant during the ultrasound, and besides, I have been told that I can’t fall pregnant on my own,” I thought.

Later that day, Nicolina visited me at home with a pregnancy test she had bought for me and insisted I take the test. And that was when I found out I was pregnant!

The next day, at an appointment with Dr. Ebrahim, she showed my husband and myself the heartbeat of my new son, who she told me was nine weeks old already. What a miracle!

Have you struggled to fall pregnant? Share your story below or visit our Trying like you forum.

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