There are very few moments in life that feel immensely emotional, invigorating, and daunting like finding out you’re expecting. For many, it’s both a joyous milestone and a privilege — the beginning of a long-awaited chapter. And while the journey is slow and filled with countless setbacks for some, conceiving is quick and effortless for others. At any rate, it’s filled with high expectations and a fair amount of uncertainty. For us, getting pregnant was both intentional and timely (an ode to modern medicine and holistic wellness).
If you’re new around here, let’s rewind. In 2017, I was diagnosed with a common hormone imbalance called PCOS. More on that in a minute. Prior to that — circa 2011-2015 — I struggled with my body image, using ‘healthy living’ as a crux. Fueled mostly by my ego, my physical goals were superficial and all-consuming. Vanity was the name of the game. On a routine basis, I worked diligently to mold and shape my body into a far leaner version of what it is today. For what it’s worth, I thought I was being healthy. But in many ways, my perspective of health was shallow.
Fast forward to my mid-20s. Shortly after meeting my (now) husband, my focus shifted. I learned, ever so slowly, how to make peace with my body. During that time, I leaned heavily into self-acceptance, body kindness, and courage. I found myself inspired by women who spoke about finding peace with their bodies too. I decided, assertively, to change my habits. And in turn, this changed my thoughts. This process wasn’t easy, but mental growth (in any capacity) never is. However, even after I loosened my grip on rigorous exercise and strict food rules, getting pregnant seemed out of reach. Thanks to toying with my body’s natural set point — and a long stint on birth control — my menstrual cycle was anything but regular.
Ultimately, I sought help from a functional medicine doctor in Colorado. She was the first person to diagnose me with PCOS. She also told me I had an under-active thyroid, likely due to the years I spent over-exercising, not managing my stress, not eating enough calories, etc. Despite the news, I was determined to regulate my cycle — not only for the sake of my fertility, but for the sake of my overall health.
Under the care of my functional medicine doctor, I tried a few different things. First, I temporarily limited gluten and dairy. I tried cycle syncing / seed cycling too. I also took a thyroid medication to support my hypothyroidism. Furthermore, I opted for more gentle exercise, started routine acupuncture, and increased my consumption of healthy fats, all in the name to improving my hormones and blood sugar. Beyond these things, I also moved on from a stressful job, graduated as a holistic health coach, and embraced new hobbies.
Everything — from food, supplements, and lifestyle choices — proved beneficial. I let my body speak for itself, tuning into its intuitive needs. Eventually, I regained a more regular menstrual cycle, although it’s hard to know what (exactly) did the trick. During those dynamic years, I had to do a lot of inner-work. It changed me for the better, though. I learned that healing from a hormone imbalance is not linear. Progress, for that matter, is hardly ever linear. Trial, error, and a lot of patience were my guiding lights.
Eastern and Western Medicine
Fast-forward to 2019. My OB/GYN tested my hormones and unsurprisingly, I tested positive for PCOS. We talked about different ovulation medicines and ultimately, we decided on Clomid. One of the symptoms of PCOS is irregular ovulation, which can increase infertility. Thankfully, Clomid (which stimulates ovulation) did the trick. After just two rounds — a very short time period in the scheme of things — we found out we were expecting.
While Western medicine played a huge part, I also took a holistic, informed approach. Leading up to my pregnancy, I got routine acupuncture, maintained mindful exercise, and ate plenty of nutrient-dense foods. About six months before we conceived, I sought support from a PCOS-focused RD. She guided me through my entire pregnancy via supplements and meal suggestions. As soon as we started working together, I began taking a prenatal vitamin as well as upped my zinc, vitamin b12, and magnesium.
In writing my story (albeit a shortened version of it), I hope it brings hope and optimism to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. I often remind myself that every woman’s journey to conceiving is uniquely hers — there is no gold standard and trust is essential. To all the mamas-to-be out there, those anxiously awaiting to give birth, know that I’m sending strength and bravery your way.
Stay tuned for my pregnancy essentials, coming soon.
Photos by the talented @jackie_segedin.