I was diagnosed with PCOS... and fell pregnant accidentally three times
I usually write about relationships, but I couldn’t not write about this topic which is very close to my heart.
I was really saddened and maddened last week to hear TV and radio personality, Ash Pollard, revealing her devastation at recently being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Saddened, because I can relate to Ash's utter devastation and maddened because PCOS is still widely being spoken about as if it is a permanent, hopeless state where you will probably need medical intervention to fall pregnant. No wonder we are devastated!
While it is true that some women require medical intervention, for others who have tried a different path, it has been possible to fall pregnant naturally.
I am one of those people and I wanted to share my PCOS good news story for Ash Pollard and women like her who have been floored by a PCOS diagnosis. (According to Jean Hailes for Women's Health, PCOS affects 12-18 per cent of reproductive-age women in Australia.)
It's my hope that by sharing my story, women will know there are other perspectives on becoming fertile, outside of the medical box. I understand and respect that some women would not be able to conceive without the modern miracle of the medical model, but I wanted women to know that it's also possible for some people to become naturally fertile after a diagnosis of PCOS. As the formed alternatives editor of Good Health magazine, I am grateful I felt compelled to try something outside the medical realm for my own PCOS.
Receiving the diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome like a death sentence of sorts. The death of my dream of having children.
I was only 25 at the time and whilst I wasn't in a relationship or anywhere near finding a good man who I'd want to have children with, I'd always known I wanted to have kids. To be told it was possible I wouldn't be able to have children was devastating.
Things had started to go awry with my menstrual cycle when I was living in New York the couple of years prior. I thought it might have been something about being away from home, or the lifestyle I was leading. My periods ground to a complete halt. Amenorrhoea. In one sense, this was convenient, but I knew it was not healthy to not be having a cycle. A GP gave me a collection of hormone tablets to "restart" my periods. They restarted but after a brief while, petered out again.
When I returned to Australia I sought specialist help, seeing a gynaecologist who conducted scans and blood tests which revealed that I had PCOS. I'd never heard of it. The treatment, I was told, was a high-dose contraceptive pill. I started taking the Pill with a niggling sense that I didn't really want to... but that was the treatment, they said.
After a year or so, the niggle had grown into a concern that taking the Pill didn't intuitively make sense to me. If I have a condition that could render me infertile, it doesn't make sense to give my body a pill that is again telling it to not be fertile. It all seemed anti-nature, to me. A double negative.
Being a journalist I was used to tracking down the highest authorities in our land on various topics, so I found the medical authority on PCOS in Australia. I pleaded my case to the professor, telling him I wanted to know what options there were for natural treatment or therapies that could help. I told him I didn't want to take the Pill anymore, that it didn't make sense to me, and asked him what else I could do that was more natural than taking the Pill. (I was naive at the time, not understanding that a doctor trained in a strictly medical model would not be in support of a natural approach.) "The pill IS the treatment," he said, with non-concealed annoyance. "You take that and when you want to have a baby, you come back and see us and we give you Chlomid to stimulate the follicles to produce an egg so you can have a baby."
That wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wanted to find a way I could help my body become so healthy that it would naturally become fertile again.
After this dead end, I keep looking for something or someone who knew something about achieving fertility naturally. I still didn't know who or what, until I heard about a "holistic” doctor. "Holistic" was a relatively unused term at the time. I didn't really know what it meant but went along in hope that a doctor who considered the WHOLE body might know something. She did. "You know acupuncture and herbs can help with PCOS?" she said. Her words were music to my ears. She told me Chinese medicine viewed fertility as a natural “side effect” of a healthy body and mind.
And that was the start of my journey to natural fertility. I saw a herbalist and had regular acupuncture (I met my husband a few months later – ironically, he’s an acupuncturist). I got inspired by reading The Natural Way to Better Babies by Francesca Naish and Janette Roberts. I saw a naturopath, started eating and drinking differently (less alcohol and less coffee), taking ‘interesting’ tasting liquid herbs three times a day and I actively acquired a taste for dandelion tea which my herbalist and acupuncturist required me to drink. I started really tuning into my body, committed as I was to become an optimally healthy, naturally fertile woman.
Within a year I had gone from no cycle, to a 44-day cycle then down and down it came until I had a clockwork 28-day cycle.
When I was 33, I fell pregnant accidentally for the first time. Sadly, we lost that little being by miscarriage. After that, we were a little more mindful of contraception (we used the "natural family planning" method as I wanted my body to be as unhindered and in tune with nature as possible). In 2002, I fell pregnant again - accidentally - and we gave birth to our first healthy daughter in 2003. In 2004, I fell pregnant accidentally for the third time and we had our second healthy daughter the following year.
I could not have dreamt when I was 25 - and told that I might not be able to have babies - that I would one day have two beautiful, healthy daughters without medical intervention. For me, discovering Chinese medicine was the most incredible, literally life-giving gift.
Of course, this path might not work this way for everyone, but it is a path that's an alternative to the medical track you're likely to automatically be taken down if you are diagnosed with PCOS.
If you've been diagnosed with PCOS, be responsible and listen to everything your doctor and specialist have to say, and then stay curious and do your own research. There just might be something you can do to help yourself and your beautiful body to become naturally fertile.
Signs that you might have PCOS
- No periods or periods that are irregular, infrequent or heavy
- Lack of ovulation
- Difficulty falling pregnant
- Excess facial or body hair
- Acne on face or body
- Scalp hair loss
- Darkened skin patches
- Mood changes
- Sleep apnoea
More information about PCOS: www.jeanhailes.org.au
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