One of the less discussed (in our opinion) aspects of infertility is the physical changes your body goes through. It can be especially difficult when you take medications that give physical symptoms of an early pregnancy. The long term effects are just as devastating.
I was a pretty chubby kid, and I went on the pill when I was 14. I remember someone saying around Christmas time that I’d “lost my baby weight.” I don’t have the slightest clue what that meant, but I can tell you that I stand 5′ tall and I graduated high school and entered college very, very thin. When I was 20, my gynecologist told me to start taking the pill continuously so that I’d only get my period four times a year and around the same time, I started to gain weight at a steady pace. I was still in college so I attributed it to poor eating habits. After I met my husband and went off the pill completely in 2008, I started gaining weight at a pretty rapid rate. I was both worried and vain, so I met with my general practitioner who sent me for blood work to test my thyroid (it was fine) and diabetes (it runs in my family, but my levels were fine). She recommended a weight loss program (I signed up for Weight Watchers) and referred me to a nutritionist, whom I met with after being on WW for three months and gaining 5 more pounds. My nutritionist put me on a strict 1200 calorie diet and encouraged me to get into a more vigorous exercise routine, so I decided to join the gym and get a personal trainer. I was dedicated to weight loss and a new lifestyle, convinced that I was gaining weight because of poor eating habits. Within a three month time span, I had gained an additional 13lbs and gone up another pants size. Discouraged doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I figured if I was doing all this work and getting nothing out of it, I may as well just skip the salad and eat the damn ice cream. Besides that, I still wasn’t pregnant. I was pretty depressed.
P O L I S H
I was the tallest person in my fourth grade class. Granted, I was 5’2″. Unfortunately, I still am. I started my period then — I think I was nine. It was normal at first, but then it got very abnormal. I had a card where I kept track of the days I bled, and almost every single day had something written in it. I didn’t have a cycle, I just bled, and bled, and bled. Some days were heavier than others, but the heavy days were a nightmare. My mom took me to an endocrinologist to find out what was going on.
J U M P R O P E
It wasn’t a walk in the park reaching a diagnosis, and getting a sonohysterogram wasn’t easy (on me, or my wallet), but it gave me a diagnosis of PCOS. Suddenly, everything made sense. The weight gain and inability to lose weight. The irregular cycles. My crazy, thick hair. Heavy bleeding when I did get a period. Inability to become pregnant.
Now that I had a diagnosis, I had a plan. I was also more than 70lbs overweight than when I graduated high school, and pretty embarrassed about the way I looked. My RE did encourage me to lose a few pounds, and explained that by even losing 10lbs it would really increase our changes of conceiving. Somehow I did. I don’t even know how, because I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but I did lose a few pounds (and then I lost more, during my first trimester due to morning sickness) and we did get pregnant on our second cycle of Clomid.
Oh, the Clomid. I was warned about the side effects and the statistics, but no one can really prepare you for how you’ll actually feel. I was mainly warned that I could be irritable. For our first cycle on Clomid I took 50mg for 5 days. I was quite uncomfortable and bloated, and had a mild headache. If I got up out of bed too quickly, I felt a little dizzy but it wasn’t too bad. The worst part was the negative OPK tests while we were on vacation that cycle. For our second cycle, my RE bumped me up to 100mg for 10 days, and that really took a toll on my body. I was bloated, I had migraines, and I was weepy. I cried at the drop of a hat — a song on the radio, brushing my teeth, a commercial on television. Everything and nothing made me tear up.
Then, I experienced extreme pain on my right side. My RE’s office was concerned that I was experiencing over stimulation and had me come in on a Sunday for an ultrasound. This worried me, but during the u/s we learned that I didn’t. Instead, I had several mature follicles and we were sent home with instructions to take an OPK and have timed intercourse. I finally got my positive OPK, and a progesterone test revealed that I had ovulated. I was officially in the TWW!
P O L I S H
I was diagnosed at 12, so before I was diagnosed was just me being a child. I wasn’t overweight, and definitely wasn’t under. I’d say the higher side of average. The doctor ordered an external ultrasound (to avoid the traumatic experience) and determined that was the culprit. Blood was drawn, tests were ran, birth control was prescribed, I was fixed.
Until I was 24. When I stopped birth control I discovered that nothing was fixed. Birth control was a bandaid to the symptoms of PCOS. I had worked hard to lose 40 lbs before our wedding, and as soon as I went off of BCP it came back all too easy. I already had a standing every four week appointment for my eyebrow waxing, but then had to add a lip wax to the mix. I didn’t get a period for months at a time, and the only way to start them was with Provera. My cholesterol went up without any dietary changes. And the acne. Oh. My. I blissfully passed through middle and high school with clear skin, and only learned that BCP was the reason when I went off of it. I was 24, getting pimples for the first time.
I fought my doctor for Clomid, and once I started cycles of Clomid with Provera, it became harder and harder to keep my weight down. I’m not blaming the medicine completely. Well, I am, but different aspects of it. Provera (progesterone) causes bloating. I would spend so much time on progesterone that the only time I felt my normal size was the few days immediately following my period, then I’d start the Clomid and start feeling inflated again. Also, the side effects of progesterone made it easier for me to cave in to bad meal choices. The discomfort of excruciating cramps, headaches, and television worthy emotional breakdowns made me run to the mac & cheese, instead of wanting low carb anything.
I know, for certain, that my ovaries can be stimulated. It happened once. One documented time, in my entire life, I ovulated. It was a cycle of Clomid, and I didn’t get pregnant. I was experiencing headaches while I was on Clomid, and my doctor was so concerned about the possibility of a stroke that she wouldn’t let me continue. My RE wanted to try Letrozole instead because it’s a “better” version of Clomid, without the side effects. However, it didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t stimulate one bit. Nothing.
When we went through four failed Letrozole cycles, the RE wanted to talk about IVF. I was upset for many different reasons, but mainly because I felt like I could do it without putting my body under more treatment. I felt like we hadn’t even let me try, because I knew that one time, Clomid worked. I told him I wanted to try again, and he gave me a prescription for Clomid after I said we weren’t going to move on to the more expensive options they were suggesting. Those cycles didn’t work either, but they were unmonitored, so I don’t really know what happened. Right after that though, Isaiah’s birth mom contacted us and all infertility interventions were postponed indefinitely. Going off of the medicines felt good. I loved not counting things, or paying for prescriptions. I was able to take off about ten pounds fairly easily, but I’ll call it all bloat and water weight.
J U M P R O P E
I was shocked at how much water weight I gained after my delivery. My legs looked like tree trunks, and I came home weighing more than I did before I gave birth. It took a while for the swelling to go down, and even longer for me to start losing weight even though I was BFing at first. My OB put me back on the pill at my 8 week post postpartum appointment and said that it would regulate my cycle. By the time Chloe was 10 months old, I still had a good 25lbs to lose to get back to my starting weight, and it wasn’t for lack of effort. I joined Weight Watchers again (my weight didn’t budge), I exercised (a walk in the morning, and in the evening), I gave My Fitness Pal a try, and then I just gave up. It seems like giving up does the trick for me — I’ve since lost 40lbs and weigh less than I did before I got pregnant with Chloe. I’ve hit a plateau, though, and have been stressed lately (thanks for a few BFNs) so I’ve been munching on junk food.
It’s crazy how it all becomes a cycle of depression, embarrassment and anxiety — I’m depressed because I can’t get pregnant, I’m ashamed because I already have a child and should be more grateful, I’m embarrassed at the way I look because I’m overweight and can’t lose weight because I have PCOS, which causes me to be infertile, realizing that I have anxiety over ever becoming pregnant again, and then I become depressed again because really, these are all silly reasons to be embarrassed.
P O L I S H
Because of emotional eating before Isaiah was born, and then convenience eating after, I’m not at the look I want. I’m not complaining about it; I’m simply making a statement. I know how to fix it, and I know it takes hard work. I just have to do it. I’ve done it before. I don’t have a scale because I hate getting fixated on the number, so I don’t even know where I am. I love to exercise, but I’m still adjusting to my Isaiah-led life.
I put the BCP bandaid back on shortly before Isaiah was born. I knew I would need to lose weight, and it was easier to do when I was on the pill. I also knew that my life would be so up and down that I wanted to take that extra worry away. While I’m basking in the glow of my clear face, I wonder when I’ll go off of it. I haven’t lost the weight yet, but the plan was to just be on the pill for six months. The reason for wanting to lose the weight is that if I ever do get pregnant, it will be just me and Mr. Polish. No doctors involved.
What physical changes has infertility given you?