Hi, I’m Emma Young, I am 37 years old and I work for a charity that supports deaf children and young people. I live in a lovely little village in Preston with my husband and our little four legged fur baby, Charlie the Cockapoo. I’m writing this blog to share my fertility journey with you. Hopefully my story will give you an insight into the daily fertility struggles I face and encourage you to talk about yours too.
My husband and I have been married for just over a year. We both teach Salsa dancing (when we are not in the middle of a pandemic!). As cheesy as this sounds, we actually met on the dance floor almost 11 years ago and we knew from that moment our relationship was only heading in one direction. My husband has been so supportive of my desire to speak out about my problems with fertility, and in doing so it has also shed some light on his feelings about our journey too. He doesn’t feel as confident as I do in talking about it. He has always been 50/50 about wanting children and would be equally as content with just the two of us and our pooch. However, he knows how maternal I am and understands my dream of having our own child. I know I have his full support no matter the outcome.
My PCOS journey began in 1998 when I was a teenager. I was considered a ‘late starter’ when my periods arrived at the age of 15. They were never consistent, some months they would last 3 to 4 days, other months they’d last 7 to 8 days. The length of time between my periods also varied and go from a 2-3 week gap to a 5-6 week gap between bleeds. My mum and older sister had similar experiences in their teens so I just assumed that it was normal. I do recall it being raised by my mum with the GP quite early on but it was put down to me being so physically active, as I danced several times a week.
Fast forward 18 years, I had been on various forms of birth control such as the pill, the implant and the injection, most of which meant that I did not have a monthly bleed. This suited my active lifestyle as a dancer as I didn’t have to worry about a bleed every month and so carried on without giving it much thought. At the end of 2017 I decided to give my body a break from contraception so I discussed it with my fiancé. I wanted to give my body a chance to return back to it’s normal functionality so that I could have an understanding of when and what my regular cycle looked like in preparation for starting a family.
Four months after stopping contraception I hadn’t had a period so I went to see my GP. My doctor sent me for an ultrasound scan which showed that I had many cysts on my ovaries. I was then referred to a fertility specialist who confirmed in February 2018 that I have PCOS. My fiancé and I discussed our thoughts on waiting until we were married before trying to conceive but the doctor highlighted my age, 34, and advised that my chances of conceiving would decrease the older I got. He felt that there was still a possibility of us having our own child, if there were no additional complications, and told us not to give up hope.
We got married in August 2019 and started trying to conceive soon after. In March of this year, after being unsuccessful, we were referred back to the fertility specialist. In July we had a consultation and they provided me with 3 months of Clomid treatment. We were advised that if this treatment was unsuccessful then both myself and my husband would have to go for additional tests to determine if there are other reasons why we are having difficulty conceiving.
We are currently on our second month of Clomid. When we started fertility treatment I spoke to my husband about wanting to outline our fertility struggles on social media. He was really positive about it and felt that if it would help me then he was fine with it. I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons. I have friends who have experienced fertility treatment and at the time I never knew how to approach the subject and wasn’t sure if they wanted to talk about it or not. I didn’t want my family or friends to feel the same around me and feel as though they are walking on eggshells or avoiding me for fear of upsetting me.
There was also the added pressure and the expectations of others – because we were recently married others expected that babies would be the next thing on our list. I received so many comments after our wedding such as ”come on, time is ticking, you’re not getting any younger”, “don’t you want babies?”, “Is it time you started trying?”. Unfortunately I know I am not the first person to experience such comments and I won’t be the last! I benefit from talking about my difficulties so I wanted to let people know that I am happy to chat about my experiences and answer any questions that they may have. I also thought that if I speak openly about what I am going through it may help others find the confidence to speak to somebody about their own difficulties. If I help just one person then it will all be worth it.
I feel that fertility and PCOS are such taboo subjects to many people. I do understand that not everybody has the confidence to speak about it so I want to help normalise these issues that affect so many people. Let’s make it a topic of conversation that people can discuss openly and confidently when they meet up with friends and family. Recently there has been a huge positive shift in people talking about mental health and menopause, so why not talk openly about fertility struggles and PCOS too? I know circumstances are different for everyone and people’s privacy should be respected if they want it to be BUT, don’t be afraid to ask people if they wish to talk about it, they may just surprise you and say yes. By speaking openly about our struggles my husband and I now walk into our local pub and rather than people say “are you not trying?”, it is now replaced with supportive comments such as “how is treatment going?”,”how are things?”. Some of the guys have started chatting to my husband about it and usually he isn’t one to discuss his own personal life. It’s been great for him to feel supported by having his friends and family checking in with him. I am glad he is given the opportunity to speak about things too because I don’t want him to feel as though he should sit quietly in the background. PCOS doesn’t just affect me, it affects him too, on a daily basis. It’s just as hard for the partner as it is for the patient. After all, he is the one that is having to put up with my hormones being bounced all over the place and my mood swings!
There is added pressure on a relationship when going through fertility treatment. Experiencing irregular periods whilst trying to identify when you are ovulating, if at all, can be impossible! Keeping a daily log of medication, pain, bleeds, intercourse and spotting is stressful and tiresome too. As is monitoring the precise timing of everything such as what time of day you bleed, having to take medication at certain times during your cycle, and then being told to have intercourse every 2-3 days. For those with a high sex drive they may find that a breeze but for those who have an average or low sex drive the demands can be quite testing!
I have experienced other mild PCOS symptoms too but I have managed those reasonably well, such as excessive hair growth, weight gain, sugar cravings and mood swings. Nobody has ever discussed PCOS in any detail with me, anything I have discovered about PCOS has been through my own research. I found a video clip online of a doctor providing advice for women with PCOS who are trying to conceive and one of her recommendations included, taking a combination of myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol. I have been taking these along with folic acid for two months and this month I had a period naturally. Prior to this I had not had a period for 4 months before starting the fertility treatment and the specialist had to place me hormone tablets (provera) for 10 days to induce a bleed to allow me the opportunity to start taking Clomid.
Since we have started to talk openly about PCOS and our fertility journey I have had so many lovely messages of support and heard positive stories from other women who have experienced fertility troubles or conceived with PCOS. It really does give me a glimmer of hope that I may not be completely broken. Only time will tell. As I am now 37 my husband and I have agreed that we will continue trying to conceive for three more years. If we are still unsuccessful our fur baby will get a new playmate!
We are very fortunate that we have a very loving and understanding relationship and family and friends who love and support us too. We know that we are only at the start of our fertility journey, but it is one that I am keen to share with anybody who would like to know about it. Nobody should feel alone and you should not have to go through this on your own, there is always somebody that you can talk to.
My advice to anyone in a similar situation to me is to try and surround yourself with positive energy from positive people and where possible try and maintain a sense of humour! And to close on a parting statement from my mum…….”keep everything crossed, just not your legs!!”
Love and hugs to you all, Emma x
If you would like to share your PCOS story please email Laura Faulkner, our Information Production Manager, at email@example.com