September: PCOS Awareness Month
With the craziness of summer activities, I have been slacking big time on staying consistent with my blogging and social media posts. Now that we are getting back into the school-year rhythm, it is time to get back at it. I’ve been working on a couple of residential design projects over the summer that will be wrapping up soon. I am looking forward to being able to share these projects with you. In honor of my favorite month, I wanted to write a more personal post this time to share a bit about myself.
Not only is September my birth month, my son’s birth month and the start of my favorite season, it is also Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women. The cause is believed to be genetic and there is no cure. Although PCOS is common, it is surprising how many people have never even heard of it. Unfortunately, this also means that there are a lot of women that are suffering from PCOS unknowingly. They are unaware that there is an explanation for their ongoing challenges and that there are also ways to find some relief.
As you probably guessed, I am one of those women who has PCOS. Like so many others, I finally learned about PCOS after trying to find answers to explain why I was struggling with fertility. Being on the birth control pill all through my high school and college years had been keeping much of my PCOS symptoms at bay (thankfully), with exception to my chronic headaches. When I stopped taking the pill in preparation to start a family, my headaches miraculously became more manageable but everything else went downhill. It was like my body went into a full-on revolt against me. Unexplained weight gain, increased acne, sprouting facial hair, painful cysts on my ovaries, unpredictable and miserable periods, insomnia, anxiety attacks – all the not-so-fun havoc that out of control hormones can cause on a body. Of all the unpleasant symptoms I was dealing with, it was the month after month of negative pregnancy tests that was the most painful. I was uncomfortable, angry and an extremely unpleasant person to be around. After many frustrating visits to the doctor’s office, I finally had a nurse suggest that maybe I have something called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. She then proceeded to hand me a prescription for a fertility drug that would help force my body to ovulate and sent me on my way. No explanation of what PCOS is and no suggestions on what I could do to help deal with the symptoms. I went home, promptly got on the internet and spent the rest of the evening reading anything and everything I could find on PCOS. What I had been dealing with for years all started to make at lot more sense.
I discovered that PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility for women and often leads to difficulty with weight and diabetes. I also found many resources for online support and information on how to successfully manage PCOS naturally. It quickly became apparent that the most reliable way of minimizing the symptoms was through maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, most importantly committing to a strict diet. I had already adopted a vegetarian (off and on vegan) lifestyle years prior in an attempt to feel better. The PCOS diet emphasizes eliminating dairy, processed foods/sugars and avoiding high glycemic foods. The other top recommendations for balancing hormones include minimizing exposure to plastics and other hormone disrupting toxins, minimizing unhealthy stress and surround yourself with positive support. After discovering this information it became my mission to get out from underneath the miserable cloud I’d been living under and find my health and happiness. After two years of trying every fertility increasing method under the sun and reaching a point where I was ready to turn to medical interventions, I finally got an unexpected positive pregnancy test on New Year’s Eve. Those two years felt like forever to me and seemed hopeless at times. Yet, I know there are many who have been waiting a lot longer and have sacrificed a lot more to become parents.
My journey to manage my symptoms and maintain my health is ongoing. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing some serious health complications such as diabetes and certain forms of cancer. For the sake of my family, I am dedicated to taking care of myself so that I can be present for them now and as far into the future as possible. Sometimes I receive negative reactions from others regarding my lifestyle choices or my "obsession" with being healthy. This really bums me out because my intention is never to offend or place judgement, only to try to share my experiences and what I’ve learned along the way to hopefully help others.
If you follow me on social media, you may already know that my husband and I are expecting our second child. While getting pregnant still took about a year to achieve, the experience this time around was a lot more pleasant than with our first pregnancy attempt. Since my son’s birth two years ago, I have made some pretty significant changes in my life. I walked away from a promising career that was highly stressful and brought me little joy. I finally committed completely to a dairy-free diet, limited processed foods significantly and began to take the time to cook healthy meals every day. I started making big steps to change our daily habits to minimize the use of plastics in our home and minimize our exposure to other toxins. I purged, decluttered, simplified, minimalized - whatever you want to call it. I can’t for sure claim these efforts contributed to a smoother fertility experience this go around, but I strongly believe they did.
I share this happy news of my pregnancy with reservations. I know what if feels like to be on the other side. I know what it feels like to be the woman who wants to become a mother so badly but feels like it will never happen. To feel like I’m weird or damaged or unfit. To have every new pregnancy announcement on social media trigger tears of sadness and anger. To experience extreme jealousy, even rage, towards those who make light of their own abundant fertility. Those struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss are constantly in my thoughts every time I speak of my own pregnancy publicly. The reason I have decided to go ahead and share my pregnancy journey is because being a mom is a major part of who I am. It’s the reason I’ve changed my career path and it is what has motivated much of my lifestyle choices. My hope is that by sharing the experiences of my natural pregnancies (by “natural” I mean not involving medical/scientific assistance to become pregnant), that I may help someone else struggling to achieve the same.
I would like to remind everyone to please try to remember to be considerate of those who are experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss. Think twice before asking a couple when they are going to start a family or when the “next one is coming”. Be thoughtful about what you post on social media because you never know what your friends are going through in private and how much something you post might unintentionally hurt them. Infertility and pregnancy loss is so very common, yet not spoken about enough. Our society needs to be more aware so we can all be more supportive.
By sharing my story, I hope to not only help bring more awareness of PCOS and infertility but to also shed some light on why I’m so passionate about creating homes that support the well-being of the families that live within them. My goal of self-employment is to attempt to merge my personal values with my career, the two of which had previously been in complete conflict. In the coming months as I head into the latter half of this pregnancy and start life with a newborn again, the topics I discuss here on the blog will most likely focus more on family life and preparing the home for a new baby. I’d love to hear from you if there are any specific parenting related topics you’d like to discuss. Thank you for listening and thank you for your support!
Please Note: Obviously, I am not a doctor and should not be considered a creditable resource for medical information. If you would like to learn more about PCOS or if you suspect you may have PCOS, please seek out information from a creditable source. Feel free to reach out to me if you would like some recommendations on where to start.