In partnership with Fertility Associates
PCOS affects 10-15% of women – but it’s still one of the least understood conditions that plague females across the world. Soon-to-be mum Amiee Brown tells Capsule of her surprise PCOS diagnosis, and how she’s dealt with the condition as she embarked on her fertility journey.
When Amiee Brown (30) and her husband Steve couldn’t fall pregnant naturally after two-and-a-half years of trying naturally, she had a feeling something might not be quite right.
And while she expected to hear that her fertility might have been affected, a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome was completely unexpected – but explained a lifetime of previously unexplained symptoms.
Says Amiee, “We signed up to Fertility Associates and they were great – but before they’d even start fertility treatment with me, I had to lose weight, which was hard to hear. But it was during this time that I was diagnosed with PCOS – and I had no idea that I had it.
“It just instantly explained so many of my symptoms. When I came off the pill when my husband and I started trying, I gained so much weight so fast despite not changing my diet. And as a typical woman, I just thought it was me, and you know, I’m in a happy relationship – maybe I just let myself go! And then there’s the body hair, and the irregular, heavy periods.”
And of course, the fact that PCOS can make falling pregnant harder.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is an endocrine condition where an imbalance of female hormones (oestrogens) and male-type hormones (androgens) leads to various combinations of symptoms, including irregular periods, acne, unwanted hair growth and sometimes, subfertility, says Fertility Associates Dr Stella Milsom.
PCOS affects fertility in the sense that irregular periods cause irregular ovulation, which is important to address when you’re trying to get pregnant. Ironically, PCOS sufferers often have higher egg reserves, but can struggle with ovulation.
It’s a condition that affects 10-15% of reproductive-aged women, but the full, underlying cause of it isn’t yet known.
For Amiee, the diagnosis came with a great deal of fear, as she only knew one person who had been diagnosed with PCOS – her aunty, who never had biological children.
“So of course, I’m freaking out,” she says. “But thankfully, my doctors were able to explain to me that having PCOS didn’t mean I couldn’t get pregnant – but now we knew, we could work around it make a plan.”
Once Amiee’s weight was down to where it needed to be, she embarked on her first round of IVF and she was found to be ‘quite slow to respond’ to the treatment.
“This didn’t surprise my doctor – she told me that with PCOS people, it can go one of two ways – you can overstimulate or under, and I was under.”
Gutted but still determined, Amiee and Steve tried again, this time on a higher dose of hormone injections and a slightly different drug that was more suited to polycystic ovaries.
“I was slow to respond still, but we got there – we got lots of follicles and we scheduled an egg collection. They went in and took them out, and we were waiting for the phone call the next day to see how many eggs fertilised. And it was none.
“We were absolutely heartbroken. Turns out, this time it wasn’t a PCOS thing – it was a me thing! My eggshells were too hard. Of course!”
Treatment then switched gears, with doctors at Fertility Associates opting for ICSI procedure – where they took Amiee’s husband’s sperm in a needle and injected it straight into the egg.
“Yeah, it’s a ‘no stuffing around’ procedure,” she laughs. “And this time, nine eggs fertilised, and we ended up with four embryos in the freezer.”
Fast-forward a few months, and Amiee is now 37 weeks pregnant, and excitedly awaiting the arrival of her and Steve’s much longed-for bub.
“Look, it’s been a journey!” she tells. “Some of it hasn’t been pleasant, but of course it’s all been worth it. I just wish I knew that I had PCOS earlier – I would have tried to live a different kind of lifestyle had I known. I’ve always been on the overweight side, but if I had known PCOS was a factor then it would have changed the way I would have approached it.
“And even things like the heavy periods, you know – you just think you’re not sucking it up enough because every other woman is going through the same thing! We’re so hard on our bodies as women, and to have known that there was a reason for it, and it wasn’t me being a weakling, would have been amazing.
“But I’m so thankful that through the process I found the answers – and I’m so thankful to science. We didn’t think we’d have a shot at being parents, and now we’re about to become Mum and Dad.”
To book a free consultation with a Fertility Associates nurse, click here!