14 October 2015

The Double Miracle

September was PCOS Awareness Month. I wanted to post something about it then, but all of my time was spent with both preparations and taking care of the baby that I managed to post this now. Better late than never, I guess. Fair warning, though: each woman's PCOS experience will be different and unique. What I will describe below is my own, personal circumstance. Please consult your doctor for your own diagnosis and treatment plan. With that said, please read on. 

How happily ironic is it that our daughter was born in September, PCOS Awareness Month? You see, a large part of Katies' birth story is related to a condition called PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). Having a baby under normal circumstances is a miracle, isn't it? But doing so when you have PCOS...well, consider it a double miracle. 

image from trialsbringjoy.com


PCOS is a health condition in women characterized by a hormonal imbalance that affects their reproductive cycle, making it difficult for them to get pregnant. I had most of the symptoms for PCOS, an ultrasound and a blood test confirmed it. I was diagnosed a couple of weeks before my wedding, so you can imagine the anxiety I felt when I told JP about it. Fortunately, he was supportive of me and told me to just do what the doctor recommended to manage it. 

My OB-GYN in Manila assured me that lots of women get pregnant, even with PCOS. It is all about managing the symptoms. Immediately, I was put on Metformin, a drug for diabetes, to help maintain my sugar levels. Plus hormone pills to induce and regulate my periods, and instructions to eat a balanced diet and lose weight. On my own, I researched the hell out of PCOS: I  read books, checked online, and took additional supplements (thank you, Mom, for sending them from the US!). 

Fast forward to late 2014, we consulted with another doctor in Singapore, who told us that although I managed to get my cycles on track, I wasn't exactly ovulating. I was prescribed additional medicine to help with that. Luckily,  we eventually got that positive pregnancy test we'd been praying for. 

Even during pregnancy, the threat of PCOS' effects on my body was a constant. Women with PCOS have low levels of certain hormones that may cause miscarriage (which I previously had, but let's talk about that later). Since I was taken off Metformin after the first trimester, I had to basically make sure my sugar levels were all normal, without any medication. JP helped a lot, by really watching my diet and stopping me from indulging too much. Carbs and sweets are the enemies, is his battle cry for me. It still is, until now. Haha. 

Worth the wait!

And now that Katie is here, PCOS is causing me to have very low breastmilk supply. My daughter's main food is formula, supplemented by what little breastmilk I have. No judgements from breastfeeding advocates, please. I'm doing all I can to get my supply up (I've had liters of Malunggay tea and other soups!) 

This is why I say that Katie is a miracle baby. As a woman with PCOS, a lot of odds were stacked against me. My body, supposedly not conducive to housing a life, was allowed to do so. With a little help from science, lots of prayers and a supportive husband. 

The cause of PCOS, whether genetic or environmental, is still being researched and debated. There is no cure for it, and women with PCOS are at very high risk for endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. All you can do is manage the symptoms with medicine (talk to your OB-GYN about it), lose weight (not all, but a LOT of women with PCOS are overweight or obese) and ensure you have a well-balanced diet. 

If there is a cause I would advocate for, it is PCOS awareness. I encourage women to get themselves checked if they think they have the symptoms. A lot of women think their "irregular" periods are normal. It may already be a sign of PCOS. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the earlier you can work with your doctor on a plan to control it. 

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