Living with PCOS: Taking a step back

Mysterious steps
Allow me to back up a little for those who are unfamiliar with PCOS, and give just a bit of information on this condition and my journey with it, before I delve into how I use nutrition and natural medicine to treat it.

I have mentioned several times now that I have PCOS, but have never
delved into the topic to any degree. I've decided it's time to bring up
the subject and explore with you more of my diagnosis, what it means to me, how
I've dealt with and am dealing with it, etc.

Just what is PCOS? To me, it is many things.

In a very real way, it is a gift from God and a testimony of His grace in my life, as He uses this trial to build in me character, faith, patience and most of all, trust in His sovereignty and goodness. At many times it is also a significant struggle and challenge that I must work through, with it's accompanying emotions, physical effects, etc. To a large degree, it has also become just a part of life. We all have elements of life that, while not ideal or what we would have chosen, we have become accustomed to.

For those unfamiliar with the term, PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is a hormonal disorder that can look a bit different in each woman, but generally it involves sporadic or non-existent ovulation, higher than usual male hormones, and sometimes actual ovarian cysts. For most women, it means that their entire hormonal balance and menstrual cycle is completely out of whack. Here's a link to the long definition, and a shorter one- you pick!

If you are wondering whether you might have the symptoms of PCOS, here is a short quiz to give you an idea of how your symptoms line up with a possible diagnosis. If you are truly concerned, I would recommend that you see your doctor as soon as you can, explain your concerns, and ask that they would do the necessary testing for you.

I do not have what might be considered a standard case of PCOS to many doctors (though my blood tests and erratic cycles still equal a diagnosis), because I do not deal with one of the most commons issues: weight struggles. For many others, the struggle to keep their weight down is a constant battle, and it unfortunately creates more of a vicious cycle for them, as blood sugar and insulin levels that are off (as they often are in those who are overweight) only exacerbate the symptoms. In fact, many doctors believe that insulin issues may be a part of the cause in the first place.

I believe that my insulin levels are still greatly affected, despite the fact that I do not struggle with my weight. After my diagnosis, I lost a great deal of weight as I began to eat healthier and become more active, and I still experience very tangible blood sugar imbalances, when I don't eat often enough, when I eat too many sugary and high carb foods (particularly white sugar and flour), as well as during my last pregnancy when practically any sugar at all (even good sugars) made me feel quite ill.

For me, having PCOS looks like a very irregular cycle, frequent annovultion (not ovulating) and very wildly fluctuating hormones (I think this also affects the severe eczema I have on my hands, as it gets better or worse with major hormone shifts).

It also adds a greatly increased difficulty in conceiving. This is likely the most difficult part of the struggle for me, as it is for many women. Infertility is extremely common, and often very difficult to overcome.

I believe that my daughter's conception was an absolute miracle, and God's sheer kindness to me. We had not been planning to try to conceive, and when God suddenly changed our minds, it was during the first two months of "regular" cycles that I had had in years.

I have alluded to the fact before that there was some difficulty in conceiving my son. It took us one year, during which I only ovulated about 5 or 6 times and had quite confusing cycles. In the end, we saw a fertility specialist. I will talk more later about the things I did during that year, and why we made the decision we made to seek help.

I am an incredibly blessed woman. Despite this disorder, God has allowed me to conceive and carry two children to term, and to enjoy the rich blessings of being their mother. I no longer take for granted the idea of being able to have children, or hold any misconceptions about my right or ability to plan when or if they will come, and how many we will have.

Some days I struggle to want to try to take back that control (as if it was ever mine to have), and God gently pries it out of my hands, reminding me that I am not in control and that no matter what my family size looks like, He is still good. So very good.

I still plan to share about the natural ways to deal with PCOS, and look forward to that discussion!

Thoughts from those with PCOS? From others who live with a serious disorder or have experienced infertility? (Or anyone else for that matter!)

As well, are there any specific questions re: natural treatment or nutrition for PCOS that anyone would like me to attempt to answer? Please leave a comment with them, or email if you'd prefer, at keeperofthehome(at)canada(dot)com.Thanks!

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  1. I went years and years without every being diagnosed and it wasn’t until I found the symptoms of pcos online, that I could specifically ask my doc about them. It’s amazing how much my health has changed since changing my diet. I’ve done something myself that the doctors couldn’t do for me. 🙂
    And I’ve had the idea for a fertility blog in the back of my head for the past year and finally started working on it last month. Just launched it this week in fact. 🙂 Just finally realized that I need to put myself out there in hopes of being able to help someone else. Because, as you’ve said, infertility is way to common and some days can be pretty hard.

  2. I am really looking forward to learning more about how you manage your PCOS. I also have a very untypical case: I have both PCOS and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and yet have always struggled with being underweight. Because of that and some of my other health quirks, it took three doctors to finally diagnose me. For me, PCOS means sky high testosterone levels, (mildly) cystic ovaries, horrible acne, and fertility struggles. My cycles are strange… they may be quite regular (although more like 1.5 months apart) for a year or so and then absent for a couple of months. Amazingly, after 6 years of marriage, my husband and I are now four months pregnant! An absolute miracle for us as well!
    When I was first diagnosed, my doctors originally put me on BC pills, but I quit them after a month of agonzing abdominal cramps. I knew there had to be a better way to handle it.
    I am not very knowledgeable about natural remedies, so I decided just to try a common sense approach: just a healthy diet and exercise. It really has made a difference. The only medication I ever take now is Synthroid (for my Hashimoto’s) and my husband and I managed to get pregnant (surprise!) without any fertility treatment. The acne, by the way, has been much better (not gone, but better) since I stopped using face washes meant for acne treatment and went back to plain-old natural homemade soap without dyes or fragrance. Fortunately, my PCOS was mild enough that just taking care of myself the “common sense” way worked for me. I think getting my Thyroid issues (which were diagnosed around the same time)under control also helped a lot with my symptoms. I am very interested it what other things I could be doing to take care of my body to help ward off any flare-ups in the future.

    1. @jodean, I just wanted to say that my situation seems to be a similar one – went to the OB, who decided I have PCOS (due to irregular periods, high testosterone levels, and a my first charted cycle that obviously showed I had not ovulated). Then my thyroid levels came back high – and my GP diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s, as well. I just started on 25 mg of Levothyroxin (Synthroid). My husband and I would love to have a baby, but right now I’m just trying to figure out how to get healthy and get my hormones balanced. If I’m balanced and healthy, I should ovulate and conceive on my own (right??). LOL. I have also started taking a few supplements – LifeTime prenatals (as recommended by Marilyn Shannon’s book Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition) at half-dosage, Vitex and omega-3s.

      I just started a few weeks ago, so I’m curious (and trying not to be too anxious) to see if/how the synthroid, the supplements and dietary changes will affect me. Praying for health and in the meantime resting in His peace and knowing that He is in control and He is GOOD!
      .-= R. Been´s last blog .. =-.

  3. I have what I guess would be considered a classical case of PCOS. I’ll never forget that crushing moment when the doctor told me that I had PCOS and that I would need to stay on birth control pills to manage my horrible and painful symptoms, and I might never get pregnant naturally. Fast forward 3 years, and now I have naturally managed my PCOS (no birth control!) and my pain is gone, and my cycles are very regular. Still haven’t gotten pregnant, but I can’t say we’ve been trying. There is so much to say about my PCOS journey, but if I could just say one thing, it would be to not give up if you have PCOS. The diagnosis is not the end of your dreams of fertility. There’s a lot you can do that doctors won’t tell you! So take heart!

  4. Although I don’t have PCOS, I’m very interested in your story, Stephanie, as I do have several other hormonal problems. I have had more than one healthcare practitioner question my ability to conceive, and that is very hard to hear, particularly since I am already doing all of the “right” lifestyle things. I just got another bad report last week, and I’m struggling quite a bit emotionally. We were hoping to start a family next year, but I have serious doubts about whether that is realistic. I’m curious to know how and when you sought fertility help and how you dealt with your emotions in the meantime.

  5. Thanks Stephanie for this post! I am starting to think that I may have POCS based on the symptoms you stated. I had been on birth control for 10 years and my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family about a year and a half ago. I thought that my cycle was irregular due to the BC pills, but I am starting to think otherwise. I also have horrible ezecma on my hands and sometimes it is unbearable, I would have never thought it was due to something like this. I have struggled with losing weight recently (I am not overweight by any means) but I have put on about 10 pounds since I stopped taking the BC pills and would like to take it back off.

    I would greatly enjoy hearing how you have used nutrition to help concieve. I am still not preganant and would like to be able to use nutrition to help my chances.

  6. I have been really enjoying your blog and wanted to share about my own experience with PCOS. After years of having irregular cycles I was diagnosed with PCOS. The only solution the doctor offered was to go on birth control. To me, that was not a solution at all. I had been on birth control in the past to regulate my cycle and as soon as I stopped taking it, the irregularity would resume.

    I was referred by my sister in law to an acupuncturist. The acupuncture treatments and herbs from the doctor regulated my cycle and a few months later I found out that I was pregnant. Although the pregnancy was unexpected, we felt truly blessed as we thought that getting pregnant might be difficult for me. My daughter is now 9 months old and a testament to God’s faithfulness!!

  7. I just found your blog and when I noticed the PCOS category I had to read on. I also have it, along with endometriosis. I have many of the symtoms (weight gain, etc), but I have never missed a period, and since everything I read said that is the one sympton that is always present I went a long time without considering pcos. My doctor was the one who insisted I be checked for it. Due to my endometriosis, I finally had a hysterectomy just two months ago, and I feel better than I have in years. I still have most of my pcos symptoms (since hysterectomy does not cure pcos), but the painful cysts that kept growing back on my ovaries are no longer an issue. My son is 8, born several years before any diagnosis, and it was humbling to realize just how blessed I am to have conceived him.

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