It is National Infertility Awareness Week! We are in the thick of a season of waiting for a little one, so this cause is very near and dear to my heart. My desire with this post is to explain a little more in-depth about the journey so far. It’s a little different than what I usually share here, but my desire is always to give God glory throughout the whole story He’s writing. I hope to educate and encourage through telling what He’s done so far.
Also, I will get it out of the way that it is a little strange to talk about things like fertility, birth control, and periods in a public space. I would love for everyone to read, but if you would rather click off this time I understand! I will do my best to not be too awkward, and please give me grace as I share.
My cycles have been irregular for as long as I can remember. Too long, too short, nonexistent–I’ve experienced it all. I was about 15 when I was put on birth control to “regulate my periods” for the first time. It made enough sense, so I went with it.
I stopped taking it at the beginning of my senior year of high school because I felt like it was making me gain weight. Once I stopped, I didn’t have a period for over a year. At a routine checkup before going to college, the doctor was concerned that it had been so long, and an ultrasound of my ovaries was ordered. During the test, the technician showed me dark spots that were visible all over them. They told me that these were probably cysts, and it was likely that I had PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
I was given a formal diagnosis of PCOS a couple of weeks later. Basically, there were follicles growing in my ovaries, but these follicles were not releasing eggs. After no egg was released, the follicles remained as cysts. And because it wasn’t being signaled by the release of an egg, my body wasn’t sure when to start my period.
With the lack of a period, the doctor was concerned that my uterine lining was building up over time and putting me at greater risk for uterine and ovarian cancer. They suggested that I go back on birth control or be given an IUD. The IUD was a lot less maintenance for a soon-to-be college freshman, so I chose that route because it would put things on “pause” while I was in school.
Between my diagnosis and when D and I started trying to conceive, there were a few scattered doctor’s appointments. They included more talk of my cancer risk and more emphasis given to being on some sort of birth control at all times. I was told that it was important to seek fertility help when necessary so that I could get pregnant quickly and then be put back on birth control for my hormones.
The thing is, after being on birth control for over 5 years collectively, I was frustrated with the state that my body was in. When we first started tentatively trying to conceive in September 2018, I had periods only every 4 months after coming off of the pill. We had assumed it would likely take a long time to conceive, but I felt like being on birth control for such a long stretch at a young age had put me even more behind.
I decided to do some research. I picked up Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, a naturopathic doctor and women’s health activist. As I read, I felt like all of my questions and concerns were being answered.
Her book talked about a woman’s cycle as an indicator of overall health, not just a sign of whether they can get pregnant or not. It spoke of periods as though they were a vital sign, and I felt so understood.
The most impactful thing I learned was about how birth control shuts down the body’s natural hormones completely. Lara Briden refers to periods while on birth control as “pill bleeds” because they don’t qualify as an actual period. While many women are told that the pill will “regulate” their cycle, it is actually bringing normal hormone production to a halt. There is no medical reason to even have a week of bleeding when on birth control because there is no ovulation occurring.
I couldn’t understand why the only solution I heard from multiple people was to stop all of my natural hormones, messed up as they are, until I was ready to have a child. And I guess I’m surprised that it has become the norm to shut off this aspect of women’s health instead of embracing the challenge and pursuing healing.
I was stirred up, and I wanted to help my body heal. I felt like I was armed with new and exciting information but didn’t know how to find someone who would approach my infertility with a similar mindset.
But God. About one year after we started trying, God answered a prayer that I don’t think I had even uttered aloud.
The doctor I currently see, after being recommended by a friend, wants to help women move toward reproductive health. And while they also acknowledge the risk of letting my hormones run rampant, they desire to help my body heal. We track my cycles by observing cervical mucus patterns, and I just completed my first 30 day cycle by supplementing with progesterone. We figured out where my body was already attempting to ovulate, and then I started taking progesterone after the fact. My last two cycles before this were 70 days each! 30 days is a huge win.
If I continue to have trouble ovulating, surgery is on the table for the future. It seems serious, but I want to take my health seriously. While I obviously want to get pregnant, I also want my body to be in a sustainable and healthy state. I am thankful that God brought me to a physician who has both in mind.
If you’ve made it this far, I truly appreciate you sticking with me! And I want to reiterate a couple of takeaways.
- Your health is important! And your reproductive health is part of your overall health! Please don’t settle for quick answers if you feel like you need more personalized and in-depth care.
- God cares about you and all of the little details. He didn’t have to bring me the doctor that He did, but here we are. He is in all of it!
- The path we are on right now is not one of quick fixes. Someday I wish I could just ask for a miracle pill to make me pregnant as quickly as possible. But we are helping my body heal for the long run, and I know that God is being glorified along the way. While He is a God of miracles and could give us a baby tomorrow, He is also a Father who will not let any long season go to waste.
And whatever long road you are on now? It won’t be fruitless either. I’m sure of it.