Category Archives: reproductive health

PCOS & the struggle to lose weight

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome affects as much as 5 million women between the ages of 15-44 years old according to a study posted by the CDC. This condition causes an increase of androgen, infertility, rapid weight gain, hirsutism, irregular menstruation, and the list goes on.

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS it was the worst news I had ever received. Once I was diagnosed that’s when other symptoms started to appear. I had always had issues with my menstrual during my early teen years as the cramps were quite debilitating. It caused severe nausea, vomiting, and weakness in my legs. My weight was never affected and I would attest that it was due to me being active.

Once I reached my early 20s is when my weight began to increase. I went from nearly 90 lbs to 110 lbs. Just before I had a successful pregnancy I was 112 lbs and reached 144 lbs. My small frame could barely manage the weight. After my pregnancy I lose about 20 lbs and kept it off for quite some time. I do believe breastfeeding contributed to my weight management, but once I stopped the weight packed on extremely fast.

It is a huge struggle to manage PCOS and all it brings. This condition has taken a toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t see the ‘me’ I’m used to. I look extremely puffy in my face and neck area. My body is not the body I’m happy to see. At times, people have assumed I was pregnant when I’m not. The embarrassment is painful and the feeling of hopelessness weighs heavy.

My biggest hope is to be able to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It has not been easy to drop weight, but any progress made is a victory and one step closer to dominating this condition.

Handling a difficult diagnosis

Most women dream of becoming a mom. In those moments we don’t usually think that getting pregnant will be difficult. To be quite honest, sexual health class only discusses the onset of puberty and the changes your body will endure. For girls, we’re told once you have a period you can become pregnant, but we aren’t told that you can face some difficulty with hormonal imbalances, irregular periods, and infertility. Never in a million years did I think my years of painful periods would lead me down the road of infertility. I had been in a committed relationship and we decided to plan to have a baby. Truthfully, it takes more than one try to get pregnant; if and when you’re seriously trying. I wanted to understand my body and if I would be able to get pregnant.

I met a really nice OB/GYN and felt that she would give me positive news and let me know I would be able to get pregnant without any problems. Boy, was I wrong? I did the usual blood work and physical exams. Upon the uncomfortable examination, my doctor informed me I had a small cervix. She wasn’t sure if I would be able to deliver a baby. It wasn’t anything that raised a concern, but I figured since I’m somewhat short it was normal to have a small cervix, in my case.

She told me once my blood work results came back we could further discuss my chances of getting pregnant. A week goes by and I get the most unusual news I could ever imagine. The doctor tells me I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS for short. I had never heard of the condition, but I realized it meant I had cysts on my ovaries. Actually a lot of little cycsts. I was in complete disbelief and then she said the syndrome usually causes infertility. Talk about your world crumbling down.

I was quite distraught receiving the news and once I got the official diagnosis is when the symptoms came flooding in. The hirutism got out of hand, I started to gain weight, my acne worsened, and my cycles were out of order. All I kept thinking about was that I couldn’t get pregnant. My partner and I didn’t stop trying and surprisingly, I actually ended up getting pregnant later on. Unfortunately, it resulted in my first miscarriage. From there I experienced multiple miscarriages. I decided that pregnancy just was not in the cards for me. PCOS took a toll on my life, my relationships, and my thoughts. I didn’t want to go through another pregnancy loss and I was tired of how PCOS changed my appearance. I didn’t feel like myself nor did I look like myself.

The other part of this diagnosis is that once you get older the symptopms become quite aggressive. When I was initially diagnosed I was quite small. I only weighed about 90 lbs. at age 22. When I did become pregnant I gained some weight, but with experiencing the miscarriages that led to a cycle of depression and I started eating more, especially foods that wreak havoc on PCOS unknowingly. I had a belly that appeared as if I were pregnant and that was embarrassing. It was hard to tell if it were from the cysts on my ovaries possibly enlarging or from the excessive eating. Truthfully, it was a combination of both, but I needed to slow down on eating excessively.

I desperately needed to do something about this PCOS diagnosis. I didn’t want to give up the idea of becoming a mom so I reached out to another OB/GYN and that led me to take the medicinal route. I started on the medication Spironolactone as well as a birth control to have “regular” menstrual cycles. The Spironolactone gave me a good enough reduction of testosterone after 6 months of treatment which led to a positive pregnancy test. This pregnancy was viable and I was then placed on Progesterone to keep the pregnancy going.

I felt that I had finally defeated PCOS. Even though we weren’t trying for another baby and we weren’t taking the precautions to prevent pregancy I had become pregnant in 2020. Of course, this ended in another loss. This time it was an ectopic pregnancy. This one took a deep toll on me. It was a matter of life or death. I simply couldn’t keep this pregnancy going without putting my own health at risk.

After that experience, I honestly believed that if I did the same medicinal regimen I started in 2017, it would give me another successful pregnancy. Again, I was wrong. My conditon just worsened. My weight got out of control and even though I had lost some of my pregnancy weight it was not enough. My weight was now 160 lbs. which I had maintained for awhile, but this put me at risk for heart disease and diabetes. I am now considered overweight for my height.

I had come to the realization that if I am not meant to have another baby then maybe I need to stop trying. I had gotten to a point where I just let myself go. My health was hanging in the balance. My relationship with my daughter’s father grew toxic and realized it would be detrimental to my overall physical and mental health if I ever had another child from him. PCOS has taught me many things about my life and the choices I make. I can either live with the diagnosis and allow it to take over me or I can do all I can to combat it’s symptoms.

PCOS is not a death sentence. It is a condition that can be managed if you take the necessary steps to do so. Having been diagnosed with PCOS a decade ago, I am now in a place where I want to take action and put myself and my health first. I need to do all I can to be healthy physically and mentally. I have a little girl looking up to me and I need to advocate for others that are in the same position as I am.