What Women with PCOS Want You to Know {PCOS Awareness}

September is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. PCOS affects 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age and can affect women’s overall health and appearance. It is a hormonal imbalance whose cause is unknown and a common cause of infertility.

Some of the symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, excess facial hair or hair in places where men usually have hair, acne, thinning hair, weight gain, inability to lose weight, darkening of skin, and skin tags.

Many women are able to manage their PCOS by taking certain medications or incorporating lifestyle changes, but many women still struggle with the symptoms even after treatment. Women with PCOS who are able to get pregnant have higher risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and c-sections. And babies born to mothers with PCOS often have higher risk of being born heavy and spending time in the NICU. (1)

I don’t have PCOS, but many of my readers and infertility sisters do. I asked some of them to tell me, “What’s the one thing you’d like your loved ones to know about PCOS?” Their names have been withheld for privacy reasons, but here are their responses.

pcos awareness

“Although my family is very understanding now (I’m 30 and married), when I was first diagnosed, I was sixteen years old. My hormones controlled me, and I didn’t know what to do with them. I was happy one moment, angry the next, and sad a few minutes later. Patience. Back then, I wished they understood that I didn’t know how to control my hormonal emotions.”- B.

“How it effects multiple aspects of your life. We didn’t know I had it until we started trying to conceive. We may not always want to talk about it, [so] don’t take offense to it.

“That every month I pee on multiple [pregnancy test] sticks and they are all a big fat negative. Please don’t ask if I am pregnant.

“The thing with PCOS is a that a woman doesn’t ovulate every month, but can still have a “period” or bleeding so she can miscalculate ovulation days. So it is really, really hard to get pregnant. Many of tracking methods like temping and ovulation tests don’t work on us. This is at times very frustrating. Our chances to conceive are harder because of the fact that we don’t ovulate every month.

Don’t tell me we just have to relax and “do our homework”. It doesn’t matter how many times we do it, if it’s on a month I didn’t ovulate…nothing will happen.”

“Maybe if you lose weight, you’ll get pregnant. Well losing weight isn’t easy with PCOS. And it isn’t a matter of me just relaxing!!

“That no matter how hard I try I can’t get the weight off. Even though I’m appreciative of the diet tips but 9 times out of 10 I have tried it already.”

“Losing weight is not the same for me. A crash diet may work but then I’ll put it back on double after. My lifestyle diet means when you eat pizza, I eat a salad. When you eat a burger and fries, I eat grilled chicken and spinach. PCOS is a hormonal disorder. That means sometimes I will feel absolutely crazy because I have no hormones to adjust my mood. I’ve gone from not having periods at all to having some kind of bleeding every two weeks. I’m at a higher risk of having diabetes by age 40, not because of my eating habits but because of my hormones. I have to pay thousands of dollars for each child I want to have..even when the child does not survive to birth.”

“At 19 years old and weighing 110 lbs. (underweight for my height), I was diagnosed with PCOS. My ovaries were full of cysts and I was not having a period. Can you say moody!?! All I could think about was the terror of not having children. I was put on Metformin and by the grace of God my cysts disappeared. However by age 22 I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and those symptoms were even worse.”

You can’t just take out the cysts. Since your body doesn’t regulate your hormones correctly, it still gets naturally overstimulated and they come back. And the only way mine get suppressed is by birth control which obviously hinders the chance of pregnancy. It’s a lot of playing with your hormones to get the cysts suppressed enough and start a treatment and then hope that it doesn’t cause the cysts to return to interfere with that said treatment. I would do one cycle, cysts return, birth control for a month or so, another cycle, cysts return, and so on and so forth… It’s a lot of different hormones each month and it’s hard not to ‘relax and not think about it.’ It’s exhausting.”


So if a woman you know suffers from PCOS, please show her empathy and understanding. PCOS is a disease with life-changing consequences. The best thing you can do for her is to be supportive and kind. Don’t offer advice or “tips” unless she asks you for them.  Pray for her regularly.  If you really want to help, consider asking her what kinds of specific and practical things would make her feel loved and supported.

You can find out more about PCOS & PCOS Awareness here and here.  You can also read my previous posts about PCOS and read stories from women with PCOS here.

Source: Polycystic ovary syndrome. (2017, July 26). Retrieved August 27, 2017, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.

IVF After Paralysis & PCOS: Kristen & Ryan’s Story

One of my favorite things to do is share stories of people who have experienced infertility. I love hearing how other people cope and find meaning in struggle. Today I’m excited to share Kristen and Ryan’s story with you today. I hope you find hope and encouragement in their story!

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello everyone! My name is Kristen Bergeron and I’m married to a wonderful man named Ryan. We have a spunky little girl named Hadley who’s about to turn two. Together, Ryan and I own and operate an online store called The Wood Reserve where we sell unique wood products and gifts. I also work as a freelance writer and run my own blog, The Natural Verve.  Ryan works for a great company called JMX Brands as a portfolio marketing manager.

We’re Sunshine State natives that enjoy family time, getting outside, traveling, and a great bottle of wine!

Q. How long were you trying to conceive and what issues were you facing?

Our infertility stemmed from two different sources. For starters, back in 2008 my husband was paralyzed in a water skiing accident. His paralysis affected him from the waist down and made having children more difficult.

While we thought this would be the only issue we’d have to work through, we quickly learned that I was suffering with undiagnosed PCOS which would make getting pregnant more of a challenge for me.

All in all, our infertility journey lasted around two years. While we faced over a year of general testing at different facilities to figure out how Ryan’s accident had affected his fertility, and then surgery for me to remove a uterine polyp, by the time it came down to our IVF cycle we were one of the lucky couples to find success after just one try.

Q. Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. were an encouragement to you during your journey?

Early on in our IVF journey, I joined an IUI/IVF Support Group on the website BabyCenter. I found this sisterhood of women so comforting throughout our infertility journey. Every time I recognized someone else’s thoughts and emotions as ones I’d experienced myself I felt a little less lonely about this journey. Though a sad reality to face, there’s so much solace to be found in the fact that you are not alone in your experiences.

I found the following quote to be quite uplifting after Ryan’s accident and found myself coming back to it during the lowest points in our quest to have a baby: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” It reminded me to find strength, no matter how impossible a situation may seem. It helped give me the drive I needed to endure and overcome.

Q. Did you and your spouse cope with infertility in the same way or did you handle it differently?

I’m a researcher by nature, so when faced with the issue of infertility, I threw myself into learning as much as possible. Reading articles, facts, and statistics helped to keep me calm and allowed me to channel my negative emotions into something productive. On the other hand, though, I would also let myself cry when necessary.

Ryan, on the other hand, is a bottler. He’s never been the type to openly speak about his emotions and prefers to deal with them individually.

At the beginning of our process, however, we made an agreement to openly communicate about our experience the whole way through if one of us felt it was necessary. We’d seen first-hand how couples struggling with infertility could be pulled apart by not talking about the situation or avoiding their problems. Our decision to remain open with each other about our circumstance provided each of us with a sounding board and kept us both sane throughout our IVF cycle.

Q. How did you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually during your struggles?

Throughout my cycle, I relied heavily on acupuncture, meditation, and old wives’ tales to get me through! If there was a food to eat or a beverage to drink that might improve my lining or help with implantation, I was a wiling participant.

We also found that taking long walks was the perfect exercise to keep my body moving and help clear our minds throughout the process.

Q. What was your lowest point and how did you survive it?

I can still remember the day I received my PCOS diagnosis like a movie playing out in front of me. I’ve always dealt with irregular periods and had gone in for some testing to try and figure out the cause. While sitting at work one day, a nurse called with my results.

In the most insensitive tone possible, she told me I had PCOS and asked me if I knew what that meant. When I told her I’d never heard of the disease, she explained that it meant I would never be able to get pregnant, and even if I did, my body would not support the baby and I would lose it.

I was understandably devastated. All of the effort we’d already put into understanding our situation and trying to have a child seemed pointless. I remember sitting on the phone, biting back tears until it was acceptable for me to hang up. I sobbed for I don’t know how long after that.

Thankfully, however, I’m a researcher. With the help of my good friend, Google, I ransacked every site I could find about PCOS and its effects. That’s where I learned that there was hope. Many, many women had received the same diagnosis as me and went on to have beautiful families of their own. I also made an appointment with my gynecologist who reaffirmed the idea that there was nothing stopping me from becoming a mother.

She said it could be more difficult, but that with help and perseverance there was still such a good chance I’d be able to carry and deliver my own biological child.

Q. Were you been able to find a “silver lining” in your infertility?

My daughter.

When we first started trying to have a baby, I held a lot of resentment. What I wouldn’t have given to just get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Looking back, I am so grateful of our experience. Had it not been for infertility, for Ryan’s accident, for IVF – we might not have our little girl.

Sure, we may have had another child at some point, but it wouldn’t be her. For that, I will forever be thankful for our unique journey.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

To any man and woman struggling with this disease, please know that we are with you. No matter what your situation or story, this battle is one we fight together. I can’t help but feel a sort of kindred connection to anyone I meet or speak to that’s on a similar path.

Whether we know each other personally or we’re merely a connection made through this screen, know that we are rooting for you. Best wishes and baby dust to all of you that are still waiting for your miracle.

Many thanks for Kristen and Ryan for sharing their story!  Please leave them a comment to let them know you appreciate them!


If you’re looking for more encouragement during infertility, be sure to check out my book, 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility.  

It’s Positive: Meredith’s Infertility Story

This post contains affiliate links. You can see my full disclosure here.

It's Positive

Each week I interview someone who has experienced infertility firsthand. This week, I interviewed fellow cheese-and-carb addict Meredith from It’s Positive.  She talks about her experience with infertility, PCOS, and why she decided to blog about her journey.

meredith

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an independent writer, editor, and communications professional from Chicago. I live with Matt, my husband of 6 years, and our silly Goldendoodle fur-baby Rudy. We love spending time in nature: hiking nature paths, spending time by the water, boating, kayaking, etc. I love coffee and chai tea lattes (and frankly, I love anything with carbs or cheese). I’m an unashamed follower and lover of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior! After leading the majority of my life without a personal relationship with Him, I was saved in 2008 – I’ve been on fire ever since!

Q. How long have you been trying to conceive and what issues are you facing?

I was officially diagnosed with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) in March 2013, but we had been trying to conceive for a couple years prior. Our “plan” was to “see what happened” after we got married in 2009 (a.k.a. we were not preventing pregnancy). We tried two rounds of ovulation-stimulating drug plus IUI’s in the summer of 2015 with no success. We’re currently on a break from treatment to enjoy each other. But, my PCOS causes me extreme fatigue and foggy brain, along with completely imbalanced hormones, random weight gain, hypothyroidism, anxiety and depression.

Q. Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. have been an encouragement to you during your journey?

These two books aren’t infertility specific, but they dramatically influenced by walk as a Christian; both are by Paul E. Miller: “A Praying Life”  and “Love Walked Among Us.”  But of course, the best book for me throughout these trials: the Bible! God’s Word is never-changing, constant, and true – and is very relevant to today’s culture and our everyday life. Spending more time in the Word has catapulted me to an entirely new level of peace, contentment, and strength as a Christian. I’ve also been intentional about listening to Christian and uplifting music.

Q. Do you and your spouse cope with infertility in the same way or do you handle it differently?

I praise the Lord that my husband has given me nothing but constant grace and support throughout this wild ride. He’s never made me feel guilty or ashamed, nor has he lost his temper. But, men and women absolutely process trials and challenges differently – especially infertility. When asked this question, I sat down and really contemplated if infertility challenged our marriage in any negative ways – and it truly hasn’t. Infertility has strengthened our marriage, causing us to rely on each other for support and strength.

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Q. What made you decide to blog about your journey?

I felt the Spirit’s leading for some time, and I kept feeling a sense of “don’t stay quiet.” I had kept a private blog to share with family and close friends, but I began reading some of my writing and thought: “Okay, more people need to hear about this!” I knew there was a desperate need for community and support for the many women and couples struggling with infertility/loss. Because the Lord has strengthened me to walk in joy and confidence throughout this journey (which by the way, is 100% glory to the Lord – this is not of my own efforts!), I knew I had to share it with the world. I knew it was part of my responsibility to bring the hope only found in Christ through my message. I had nothing to be ashamed of. The transparency of my brokenness has opened more doors for me and others than it would if I had kept this to myself. I never thought I would see my infertility as a gift, but the Lord has graciously shown me that it most certainly is a gift.

Q. How have you taken care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually during your struggles?

I needed to find the fine line where infertility and all the doctors’ appointments and monitoring became an idol in my life. Though we were actively undergoing treatment (2 medicated IUI’s), I pulled back from recording everything my body was doing. I would go into my appointments and the nurses would ask what cycle day I was on, or what my last follicle size was, and I’d just shrug, chuckle, and say: “I don’t know!” I was surprisingly commended by my nurses for not making my entire life about my infertility. I tried to live my life as “normally” as possible. Prayer and reading Scripture have hands down been the most life-giving resource to me throughout infertility. I’ve learned to listen instead of take control. I’ve learned to wait instead of become impatient. I’ve LIVED … I’ve enjoyed the small things in life.

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Q. What has been your lowest point and how did you survive it?

My lowest point (besides receiving the PCOS/infertility diagnosis) came from the outside. My Christian beliefs were challenged by other Christians, as it was implied that Matt and I were “playing God” and “not trusting the Lord” by undergoing infertility treatments. This took a huge hit on me emotionally and spiritually. But we decided to keep our mouths shut and not tell others what these specific people were saying (at the risk of being gossipy and ruining other relationships). I felt defensive, incredibly angry, bitter, resentful. I’ve cried more over these hurtful statements more than any negative pregnancy test. To be judged and criticized is never fun for anyone – but when it involves your faith and an intimate struggle – it truly challenges you to an entirely new level. After seeking pastoral council and most importantly, God’s Word, I’ve been able to move past these incidents standing tall in grace, humility, confidence, and strength. I believe the only way to truly “survive” low points like these is to seek the Lord and give it time … moving forward takes time.

Q. Have you been able to find a “silver lining” in your infertility?

Absolutely! For us personally, our infertility has been a gift. We’ve received the gift of time: Though our hearts would’ve exploded with joy if we got pregnant right after we were married, we wouldn’t have had time to learn more about each other, to grow together, to experience and nurture our marriage. I wouldn’t have had the time (nor the discipline) to sit and read the Bible every morning (sometimes for hours on end!) if a little one was around. Because we were given the gift of time in this way, my faith skyrocketed in knowledge and truth. I found my identity because of this time. I made new Christian friends because of this time. I soaked up the Lord’s gifts of laughter because of this time. I grew … and grew … and grew … because of time. I know now who I am, and that’s a gift I would never want taken away from me. I’ve never felt more confident and content – so in that, I praise my Heavenly Father for choosing me to endure this.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

The medical community likes to use the word “fail” when a procedure or treatment doesn’t take. I’d advise men and women to stop using the word “fail” when they talk about their journeys. I feel like it puts a sense of unwarranted blame on people (especially women). Women then feel like they must try everything under the sun – eat specific food, avoid specific food, drink certain tea, try alternative healings, exercise a certain amount – it becomes a control factor; and when you can do “all the right things” and you still don’t get pregnant, women can bear the weight much more deeply than they should. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of our bodies and do the best we can to sustain a pregnancy, but there needs to be an understanding that you only have a limited control over your body and life. You are not a failure! The Lord has good and perfect things planned for your life! Trust Him!

Many thanks to Meredith for sharing her story. Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her.

If you enjoyed this interview, you can see my other interviews here! 


If you’re looking for more encouragement during infertility, be sure to check out my book, 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility.