My pre-pregnancy journey with PCOS

This birth story has to start off with my pre-pregnancy journey. Since I was a teen, my body did not naturally ovulate/have a period on its own. So I was put on birth control as a teen just to induce my period. I remained on it for about 12 years. I went off the pill after Adam and I got married, because we wanted to start trying for a baby right away. But, I didn't get a period for about six months. I then decided to go to a doctor to see what was going on.

At this time I also started losing weight, my hair was thinning, and my acne was getting really bad. I was always really thin growing up, as is my mom, and it wasn't until I went on birth control in high school that I gained some weight. I felt almost like my 29-year-old body was reverting back to my 16-year-old body. I got a blood test done, and turns out I have PCOS, which means my hormones are unbalanced due to an underlying root cause of my body not being able to properly process carbs and sugars. Its just something that I was born with, as are many women. My mom had issues getting pregnant with my older brother, and may also have PCOS - but it wasn't as widely known at the time, so she never was really tested for it. PCOS is actually the number 1 cause of infertility. If your body is not releasing eggs, you obviously can't get pregnant.

Adam and I were so excited to have kids - I of course love children having worked with them and created a whole business catering to kids, and Adam has six siblings and 8 nieces and nephews - so there was no way we weren't having at least a few kids to throw in the mix! I think we were actually more excited about having children than getting married and having a wedding. The news that we might have a tough time getting pregnant was a little tough to take in.

Once my OBGYN realized I had PCOS, she told me I can take some pills to make me ovulate and try to get pregnant. But I wanted to understand why my body was acting this way, and if there was a way to treat the root cause more naturally. She was not interested in entertaining this idea at all, and was pretty rude. She couldn't even take the time to explain to me what PCOS was. I never went to her again. So I went home and dove into some good ol' online research. I found out that women with PCOS will have a hard time getting pregnant (obviously, if your body is not ovulating...), and that there are a few different medications that most doctors use to help women ovulate. I also read about so many PCOS women getting their bodies to ovulate naturally, without any medication, just by changes in diet and de-stressing. So I sought out a dietician who specializes in PCOS, and took matters into my own hands. Many women with PCOS are choosing to go this route and I felt encouraged that I could at least try it too. If it didn't work, I was open to the medications, of course.

I had to make major lifestyle changes - not only to my diet, which I thought was already pretty healthy, but to destress as well. At this point in time, Adam was away working for about a year, and we would see each other every few weeks for a weekend here and there. I was fully engrossed in operating and growing Grace + Zen. So I would teach about 20+ yoga/dance classes per week, plus parties on the weekends, plus stay up late every night on the couch doing admin stuff and trying to bring Grace + Zen to more schools and more territories. I was on a mission to grow my company! And it was pretty much all I was focused on. But I didn't realize the stress and strain it was putting on my body. I was experiencing 'adrenal fatigue', which dumped stress hormones into my bloodstream, which increased my testosterone levels, making me not have a period. Its like when they say if you are stressed you might skip a period, well that is how I was operating 24/7, 365. I was advised to avoid anything that would make me feel stressed or put my body into 'fight or flight' mode. Not as easy as it sounds! So I started hiring more teachers to take off some of my workload, and I started going to acupuncture once per week to help destress. The acupuncturist would also do special things to help with ovulation as well, like place a hot bowl of something burning on my lower stomach while I lay there for half an hour. It was interesting! I tried to take steps back from work but it wasn't easy to do right away. Most of my work is scheduled and contracted out with schools about 6 months in advance, so I couldn't just step away right away, nor did I want to since I had been so passionate about the success of my business. The last major change I had to make was to tone down my physical activity. On top of teaching 20+ physical yoga/dance classes per week, I would also work out a few days per week on my own doing a mix of cardio and weight training. Instead, I switched to walking, yoga, resistance-type cardio like rowing or riding a bike, and weights without so much cardio mixed in.

In terms of diet, the dietician had me prick my finger to check my blood sugar levels all throughout the day for about a week I think. I had to track what I would eat, and how it affected my blood sugar levels. After studying this, we realized my body has 'insulin resistance'. So now I'm being told I have PCOS, adrenal fatigue, and insulin resistance, and that its all related. Here I was, living what I thought was a happy and healthy lifestyle, but am now feeling like I'm doing it all wrong.

Major changes were made to my diet, and I think this was the key factor in eventually getting my body to finally ovulate on its own. Everyone's body is different, so I don't recommend anyone just copying what I did. But basically, I had to completely cut out sugar, caffeine, dairy, and gluten. My 3 main meals per day needed to have 30g of protein and not over a certain amount of carbs. Then I had to have 2 snacks per day in between, with 20g protein per snack. The idea was to keep my blood sugar levels balanced all day long, similar to a diabetic person. Carbs always have to be paired with a protein, to avoid it spiking my insulin levels, which dumps sugar into my bloodstream, which raises my testosterone, resulting in me not ovulating. This was hard to explain to family and friends when they would questions why I was eating so strict. Trust me, I was really dying for that coffee. I actually started to feel pretty down, which I think was partly because I had to cut out caffeine which is such a strong stimulant that my body was used to, and partly because I was living alone going through all of this. When I first started my new diet and the Ovasitol, I had a scary experience where I started to pass out. I had been at the pool and hot tub on a hot day, and was new to cutting down on the carbs/sugar/caffeine. I was talking to a mom friend at my apartment complex as I left the pool, and my vision started to black out and getting spotty, I couldn't hear, and I had to sit down. She walked me home and checked in on me later that day. I remember having this exact feeling one time when I was in high school getting my hair cut when I first started birth control. Maybe I'm sensitive to my hormone shifts, I don't know, but it was scary and I am still so embarrassed about it! Remember that Adam was away working, so I was living alone going through all these changes in my body. I do think it made the strict eating easier living alone, because I didn't have him tempting me to eat unhealthy things or have to worry about what he was going to eat. Another really difficult part was that my acne was so bad. I had hundreds of young kids and parents staring at my face all day every day while I teach, so I started to feel really self conscious about it and it made me not want to see people. One thing that did bring me happiness during this time, was going to the beach.

In addition to the diet changes, I was taking a supplement called Ovasitol, which is like a natural form of one of the commonly used medications to treat PCOS, called metformin. Metformin is actually a diabetes medication, but is also used for women with PCOS because it treats that root cause issue of the insulin resistance and your bodies inability to handle sugars and carbs. I took Ovasitol twice per day.

So the other major life change was next - I moved away from my business. This was so hard for me emotionally, and still is. To pour your heart and soul into something and then realize it was too much for your body to handle, and to move away from it, was really tough. But I just had to make a mental shift and decided to put a focus on starting a family for myself instead of putting my business first. This was the first of many little events where placing my focus on my own health and my family would start to get in the way of the success of my business.

After a few months of living in the Bay Area, now with adam full time, I started to get a regular cycle. I had been following my strict diet for about 6 months, and allowed my stress hormones to relax a little because I was no longer teaching so many classes but just managing my business instead, (which actually ended up bringing a lot more stress because now I had to rely on employees!) I started tracking ovulating with the pee sticks, and had it all mapped out on a calendar. Adam was extremely busy and stressed with his new role at work at this point, but we were trying out best. And in January 2019, it worked! We were pregnant.

Read my next post "PCOS Pregnancy" to see what happened next.

You can reach me here, or by DM on instagram @msnikkigracezen

© 2020 by Nikki Curry

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