After years of infertility Rachel’s PCOS diagnosis came after her husband recognised her symptoms in an article he was reading. Lifestyle changes increased her fertility and resulted in successful IVF treatment.
Having a period just once a year – sometimes less – had become the norm for Rachel (34), who now knows that she has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting around one in ten women in the UK.
Although Rachel had experienced two of the classic symptoms of PCOS since she was a teenager – irregular periods and facial hair – it was only after her husband Arren read an article about PCOS diagnosis in a magazine that the couple realised this might be the reason that they had been unable to conceive.
Rachel is now backing a campaign by UK PCOS charity Verity to raise awareness of the condition during September (PCOS Awareness Month) by painting one of her fingernails purple to represent the one woman in ten who has PCOS.
She is talking about the impact of the condition and her journey to become pregnant at a Bourn Hall fertility clinic webinar “PCOS and Fertility”.
Early PCOS diagnosis would have helped
“When I couldn’t get pregnant I felt as though I had failed as a woman,” says Rachel. “If I had been more aware of my PCOS symptoms I would have got advice sooner than I did.”
Bourn Hall fertility consultant Dr Arpita Ray says that PCOS is a hormone imbalance that can cause resistance to insulin, which can impact, egg production in the ovaries and make it difficult to maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index).
“Not all women with PCOS struggle to conceive but for those who have irregular periods losing weight can help to stimulate ovulation,” she says.
Rachel and Arren were referred to Bourn Hall clinic for IVF treatment after other interventions had failed to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs regularly.
At Bourn Hall, Rachel was advised to lose some weight as she was 13 stone and 5’4”. “I was a little offended at first, I didn’t consider myself to be overweight,” says Rachel, who used to play cricket at county level. “I am quite sporty but I swallowed my pride and took the advice on board and lost a stone and a half on a low-carb, high fat diet in just a few months.”
The weight loss helped and after successful IVF treatment the couple welcomed the birth of their daughter Adele some nine months later.
PCOS and Fertility webinar
In the webinar Rachel will talk about her experiences. Dr Arpita Ray, who researched PCOS before becoming a fertility consultant at Bourn Hall, and Angela Attwood, a nutritional therapist with a specialism in fertility nutrition, will discuss their understanding of the condition and how it can be treated.
People that register for the webinar are suggesting questions that they would like covered (the answers are now in this post), including:
- Is PCOS something that you have as a teenager or can you develop it later?
- If you haven’t started trying for a baby, but you think you might have PCOS, how could you get a diagnosis and what would this involve?
- A symptom of PCOS is an irregular cycle – does that mean it is worth using an ovulation test?
- Not all women with PCOS are overweight, are there different types of PCOS? Are the dietary recommendations different?
- How long would it take lifestyle changes to have an effect?
- Are there some lifestyle choices that are good for everyone with PCOS?
- If a female partner has irregular periods, is diagnosed with PCOS, and has struggled to conceive for over a year and has BMI of less than 30, what type of fertility treatment might the couple be given? How can nutrition help?
- Should younger patients with a PCOS diagnosis consider egg freezing?
- Are patients with PCOS successful at Bourn Hall?
Consultations at Bourn Hall
If the above questions are relevant to you and you would like a personal consultation with a fertility nurse, then this is available even if you are not currently trying to get pregnant.
From this consultation, you will be in a stronger position to decide on your next steps. This might be to improve your fertility fitness in preparation, try naturally for longer, or it might be to have tests to check sperm count and ovulation (egg production) – common reasons for infertility.
The advice will be appropriate to you and your circumstances. You don’t have to be trying to get pregnant or need fertility treatment to have a free consultation.