Welcome to this month’s Focus on You! In case you missed the post explaining it, Focus on You is a series where I’m putting the focus on you! Real mums, telling their stories, in their own words.
The aim of this series is to raise awareness and educate people on a range of subjects that aren’t generally discussed. It’s also to give you some insight into other people’s lives and what they might have been through or going through as a little reminder to be kind. Topics will be relating to fertility, parenthood, postnatal health and much more!
Every month, I will bring you a story told by a lovely mum who has been kind enough to share their experience. I asked each mum the same questions. All of the answers will be in their own words.
This month, I have been speaking with the lovely Suzanne who has kindly shared her story with us. This month, Suzanne talks to us about PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome). She also discusses losing her mum before the birth of her daughter.
What Is Polycystic ovary syndrome?
According to the NHS website, PCOS is a common condition. Although they do not have exact figures, it is thought to affect 1 in every five women. However, more than half the women may not have any symptoms.
From speaking with Suzanne and doing some research, I have found out that there is a difference between PCOS and polycyclic ovaries. Suzanne informed me that it is possible to have PCOS and not have an issue with your ovaries.
Polycystic ovaries – where your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs – NHS Website
Experts believe that PCOS is related to abnormal hormone levels, so women with it can have an imbalance in their hormones. There is also a link with insulin resistance.
Other symptoms of PCOS can include some of the below, from mild to severe:
- Irregular periods or no periods
- Excessive hair growth. Generally on the face, chest and back
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Oily or spot prone skin
- Irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate which makes it difficult to get pregnant
Not all women will experience all of the above symptoms.
Although there is no known cause, experts think there may be a genetic link to PCOS. Unfortunately, PCOS can not be cured but it is possible to manage the symptoms.
How long were you trying to conceive for before you sought help?
In total, we were trying for 7 years. I was diagnosed with severe PCOS when I was 22. Although apparently, it had been on my medical records since I was 17 and had no idea.
One GP told me that it would be very unlikely I would be able to have children naturally, which was absolutely devastating to hear. But from that point, we just decided not to use anything to prevent getting pregnant and just seeing how it went, although we knew we had to have been trying for 2 years before seeking help.
When we were finally referred to the fertility department at the hospital, we had both had the basic tests. Everything was fine in terms of my husband, so the issue was just with me. We knew this wasn’t going to be straightforward.
It was just before our wedding so we decided at that point to delay and go back at a later date. We carried on as before, and when it still hadn’t happened, we went back for a second time and followed the whole process through.
Did anything put you off getting help?
I wasn’t put off getting help as I knew I wanted to be a mum no matter how that happened so I was willing to give anything a go.
Did you find the doctors helpful and understanding?
Aside from my consultant who I had at the fertility department as well as throughout my consultant care during pregnancy, I found most GPs weren’t understanding and offered little information, which was very frustrating at the time.
Were you informed and prepared for any procedures that you needed?
My consultant seemed to take the approach of not overwhelming me with what options of what could and couldn’t be done at different stages and just dealt with each step and our options as they occurred.
Although they tell you about a procedure and its purpose, so you feel prepared from an information standpoint, actually experiencing some of them is very different and probably an individual experience depending on your uncomfortable scale.
Are you happy to discuss the details of any fertility help that you had? E.g. Clomid, IVF/ICIS, ovarian drilling?
It was eventually decided after all the tests and procedures, to start with Clomid to see how my body reacted to that. Every month I would have my blood test after taking the medication, and it wouldn’t really give the results they wanted, so they would up my dose.
However, after 3 cycles, they said I could have one more cycle whilst they booked me in for ovarian drilling. The blood results of that last cycle were again below their benchmark, so at this point, I was just waiting for my drilling date. I still had to continue with the second medication that you take alongside Clomid to regulate your cycle.
This involves taking a pregnancy test before starting it, which I had done for the 3 previous months and so thought nothing of it until I went to put it in the bin and realised there were in fact two faint lines and I was actually pregnant, which not only surprised me but the fertility department as well.
What kind of support did you have Postpartum?
I had lost my mum 2 weeks before having an emergency c-section. Even though my daughter was technically premature, albeit, by a few days, she was doing amazing. I was allowed out of the hospital after 2 days so that I could attend my mum’s funeral.
My midwife came to visit me not only in the hospital but also at home. She took the time to listen if I needed it and ensure I was doing ok in every sense. She also knew that with my husband being self-employed, he had to go back to work after a week.
Family & friends also supported me where they could & as often as they could. Especially in those early days when I still wasn’t allowed to drive.
Did you feel like there was adequate help for looking after your mental health after giving birth?
My midwife was brilliant and I feel she went above and beyond just ensuring my daughter was ok but took the time to ask if I was doing ok given everything that was going on at the time with my mum passing and the funeral.
If it wasn’t for my midwife, I personally didn’t feel at the time like mental health was a considered factor.
If not, did you find it easy in seeking out help with your mental health?
I didn’t seek help for my mental health after giving birth, as admittedly, I put my needs further down the list of priorities. Thinking about it and looking back now, I probably should’ve sought help and dealt with my grief at the time. It may have helped me distinguish between what was normal for postpartum hormones and what was something else.
Did anything put you off getting help?
Probably just myself, really. Although I know I was doing a perfectly fine job of looking after my daughter, I didn’t want people to see me as weak or think I couldn’t cope.
What advice do you have for any new mums and dads on postnatal mental health?
Talk, whether that be to close friends, family members or a professional. Issues can be built up in your head and make you feel worse. But saying it out loud can give you some perspective and much-needed relief.
Just like last month’s post, I am surprised that there was no follow up care for Suzanne. Especially from the Health Visitor. To lose someone so close to you and then have a baby via emergency c-section must have been such a difficult time.
Thankfully, Suzanne had a great support network with help from her midwife, friends, and family. But what happens if someone doesn’t have that support network?
If you suffer from PCOS or have lost someone dear to you, I have left some links below which may be helpful: