Overcoming PCOS: weight-loss and Ovulation Induction helped Danielle conceive naturally

It is estimated that one in ten women in the UK have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance that disrupts the monthly release of a mature egg and can cause infertility. For women experiencing this fertility issue ‘Ovulation Induction’ could help restore ovulation and increase the chances of natural conception.

Periods so heavy I didn’t want to leave the house

Danielle and her husband Craig from Norfolk had been struggling to conceive for over a year when they went to their GP.

“I’d always had problems with my periods since they began,” says Danielle. “I was 17 when I had my first one, and they were horrendous. I used to bleed so heavily I didn’t even want to leave the house. The doctors had given me some tablets to stop the bleeding being so heavy and then went on contraceptive injections which stopped my periods. It was helpful at the time but I think also messed up my body a bit.”

At 23 Danielle came off contraception to try for a family but her periods didn’t return.

“I’d put off seeking help at first as I assumed there would be no point. As Craig already had a son from a previous relationship, I thought I wouldn’t get any help from the NHS,” she says. “But that didn’t turn out to be the case at all.”

Overcoming PCOS: weight-loss and Ovulation Induction helped Danielle conceive naturally
Credit: Rebecca Love Photography

Ovulation Induction available on NHS

In Norfolk Bourn Hall provides NHS fertility testing and diagnosis. It also provides a fertility treatment funded by the NHS called Ovulation Induction, where medication is used to stimulate the follicles in the ovaries to produce a mature egg. The follicles are carefully monitored, and the couple are told when to have intercourse to maximize their chance of a natural conception.

The couple’s GP referred them directly to the fertility specialists at Bourn Hall Kings Lynn.

“Bourn Hall contacted us literally a couple of weeks after the GP referral, it was really quick, I was surprised,” says Danielle.

“We went in to see the fertility nurse at Bourn Hall and she did some initial examinations and that is when she told me that I wasn’t ovulating. I also had a HyCoSy to confirm that my fallopian tubes were clear and an ultrasound which revealed that I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).”

Dr Nausheen Mawal is Lead Clinician for Bourn Hall’s Norfolk clinics and explains:

“The eggs are stored in the ovaries in an immature state and need the hormone medications to ripen them before their release. As PCOS disrupts the hormones, the eggs aren’t released and instead appear as little bumps on the surface of the ovary.

“Many women with PCOS also find it difficult to lose weight and having a high BMI can also affect the reproductive hormones and this can result in heavy periods. Other symptoms include acne, and excess body hair.”

Emotionally draining

Craig’s tests were all fine but before Bourn Hall could start any treatment Danielle was referred for further thyroid checks at the hospital. The couple then had a surprise.

“I found out I had got pregnant naturally and we thought we wouldn’t have to worry anymore about any more tests, but, very early on, literally after a couple of weeks, I lost it,” she says.

“My friends had all got pregnant around the time we had first started trying. Since then some had gone on to have their second babies. We were still trying for our first, it was emotionally draining every time I saw another pregnancy announcement.

“I felt like I was still waiting… all I wanted was to be a mum. Even though I love my stepson, and he is like my own, I wanted to be pregnant and have the experience myself of having a baby.

Dr Nausheen Mawal
Dr Mawal says that heavy painful periods are not 'normal'

If I lost weight it would improve my chances of a baby

“When we got called back into Bourn Hall after Covid, we were given a choice of starting on ovulation induction tablets immediately or losing a little bit of weight and trying when the success rate would be a bit higher. I said ‘well I would rather lose weight and have the higher chance’.

“I went to Slimming World which I found really easy at the beginning and then after a few weeks it got a bit harder, trying to be more physically active, getting into a routine with sleep. It is just so easy to just have a treat…

“I am one of those people who stays up really late and I’m on my feet all day. I wasn’t very good with what I was eating, I was picking instead of making proper meals to I had to plan a bit better.

“My mum and dad are big walkers, so we did a lot of family walks with them and I attempted some running but…I’m not that good! So, it was really just a case of just getting my step count up.

“I felt a lot better in myself for losing the weight. And it also made it easier to keep up with my stepson and not be tired all the time, I had a lot more energy which was nice.

“It took me four months to lose two stone, and then we went back to Bourn Hall. Craig got re-tested and everything was still fine so we got our first lot of ovulation induction tablets in March 2022.

Starting Ovulation Induction – 2 stone lighter!

Craig got re-tested and everything was still fine so we got our first lot of ovulation induction tablets in March 2022. I had to take two a day for five days and then return to Bourn Hall for a monitoring scan. Unfortunately, I got Covid so everything had to be delayed by a month.

“So we started again the next month when I got my period, I took the tablets, went in for a monitoring scan and they said that there were two follicles that looked really good so they basically told us we needed to start having intercourse and every day, or every other day, and to do a pregnancy test a couple of weeks later which I did and it was positive.

“I couldn’t quite believe it, I ended up doing seven pregnancy tests to double-check!

“I had a really good pregnancy and Harlan was born at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital on 18 January 2023. It was amazing when he arrived, just to know that he was there at long last.

“I would say to anyone struggling to get pregnant to get advice from the doctor, because you’d be surprised at the options there are. I didn’t know anything about ovulation induction and when I was first told about it I was like ‘what on earth is that?’ and now I have my baby.”

Danielle and Craig with their children

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