I’m 26 years old, I have PCOS, and I just took a hormone panel that told me my fertility was 60% lower than it should be at my age.
Let me start from the beginning, metaphorically of course.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, as it’s known, is a hormonal disorder that affects 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age. It can range in severity, but regardless of how intensely you have it, you’ll most likely get small cysts on your ovaries that cause irregular periods, and an excess of the hormone, testosterone. All of this can then lead to mood swings, excess hair growth, weight gain, and above all, infertility, simply because not getting your period regularly means you’re not ovulating once a month like you should be.
I was diagnosed with a mild case at 24, right after having an IUD put in. When you have an IUD, you have to get an ultrasound to make sure it’s placed correctly. That ultrasound brought to light two tiny three-centimeter wide cysts on my right ovary.
After discovering these, we also recognized that my progesterone level was very low. This is an important hormone needed for optimal fertility. Progesterone essentially builds up in the uterus each month to sustain a fertilized egg. If there isn’t an egg, the drop in progesterone will stimulate menstruation. Moreover, if you have a low amount of progesterone naturally, your body may not know when to release an egg, causing you to skip menstruation entirely that month. If you do get pregnant, however, low levels of progesterone won’t be able to sustain a fertilized egg and it could be hard to maintain the pregnancy.
So how does this all relate to freezing my eggs? I’m still getting my period — it’s just irregular — and I’m not trying to get pregnant, so I should be fine, right?
On a recent visit to my gynecologist’s office we found that my progesterone levels were completely out of range. Women my age should have progesterone levels between .31 to 1.52 during the mid-follicular phase (before ovulation), and levels ranging from 5.16 to <18 during the mid-luteal phase (after ovulation).
I also had my AMH levels tested, which can help doctors estimate the amount of follicles inside the ovaries. My results came in at 1.92. (Someone at 26 should be at 4.0 or higher.) Basically, I hold seven follicles inside each ovary, when I should have a minimum of ten on each.
What this all means is: if I want to have kids on my own, I really need to consider how I plan.
When asked how closely I was to wanting to have a baby, I could only answer one way… not close at all. Maybe I could imagine it at 29? But even that’s pushing it considering I’m totally single and in no place to fiscally fathom what having a child would do to my lifestyle.
At this point I was given information for a $12,000 medical procedure, which could save the decent eggs I have left. For many of us, a $12,000 investment is a lot to consider, especially when the median salary for 25-34 year olds is $793 a week, or $41,236 a year. This one procedure would essentially be 29% of an annual income. A solid investment, it’s a decision you should be 100% sure about.
I’ve learned a lot about my body these past two years, but another part of me is finally coming to the realization that this is a decision I’m going to have to make for a future I’m not even sure I’m ready for.
As a female, we’re constantly thinking about motherhood as a future, and the future of our children — whether we end up having them or not. Women may understand what it’s like to go through issues with hormones, birth control, and eventually, fertility, so we should take time, even at a young age, to really ask ourselves what having children means to us.
By working with my doctor, my periods have now become regular. I take Primrose Oil and Vitamin D everyday. I take an all-natural progesterone supplement during the luteal phase of my cycle. I’ve done acupuncture, continue to exercise regularly, and have eliminated dairy and refined sugar from my diet (for the most part). I’m doing what I can to maintain a healthy level of progesterone, which is key to this whole operation.
It’s crazy to think that at my age, a lot of us have to consider fertility (or infertility). But I’m proud that we’re continuing to make advancements towards female sexual and reproductive health in the medical community, and it’s nice to finally have a recognized diagnosis for a disease that’s misdiagnosis previously led women to believe we were merely incapable of conceiving.
Nicole Best (@nikkiibest) is currently a social media strategist for the late night show, Busy Tonight. She also does freelance writing for The Fullest and Hello Giggles, and wrote a sketch show for Uprights Citizens Brigade. She’s currently working on her second book of haikus called Haikantwith(out)you, and already has one on the market, Haikantwithyou. Follow along at @haikantwithyou on Instagram for updates.