“You’ll never have children.”
Such words are heart wrenching — even more so when you are only 19 and have your whole life ahead of you. But that is the message that Kathleen heard over and over in her young adult years.
She had been suffering from razor sharp pain in her abdomen since her early teens. It was only years later that she learned the pains were from cysts on her ovaries. Sometimes there were multiple cysts at once. One time she found that she had 19 cysts on one ovary and 26 on the other. Although she was ovulating each month, she did not have regular periods. The egg was not released fully because of the cysts, and then the cysts would burst. It was a painful, debilitating cycle.
One day during a college class, the pain got so bad she left class early and passed out at the medical clinic. Kathleen was rushed to the hospital, but no one could figure out what was wrong.
Although the term PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) was tossed around, the doctor said that she didn’t fit the profile. She wasn’t overweight, was very active, and didn’t have facial hair, or acne. Instead, the doctor said she was underweight, needed to gain weight, and slow down her activity level.
The pain and thought of not having children began to affect her personal life. It played into her feelings of self worth, especially when her long-term relationship ended due to the fact that she was told she could not have children.
Finally, at age 22, Kathleen found a new doctor. After years of pain and not knowing the source, she received a firm diagnosis – she had PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female hormones. This can cause menstrual cycle changes, cysts on the ovaries, and infertility.
Kathleen went on birth control pills to control the cyst growth. The birth control pills helped the pain, but Kathleen had to change pills every six month when they became less effective. Other than birth control, she was told the only way to manage PCOS was through pain medication. For years, she took hydrocodone, but wished for a treatment alternative. Over the years, Kathleen endured several procedures to remove cysts and scar tissue from her ovaries and cervix.
Then she met Bryan, the man who would become her husband. When Kathleen told him about her struggle with PCOS and inability to have children, he was supportive. Two months before their wedding in 2012, Kathleen decided to research doctors who treated PCOS and infertility.
Dr. Laurence Jacobs of Fertility Centers of Illinois provided the help that Kathleen and Bryan needed. After doing a complete workup on both Bryan and Kathleen, he put Kathleen on Metformin to help with minor insulin resistance which he felt hampered her ability to ovulate. Although the Metformin made her sick initially, she began ovulating and felt pain-free for the first time in her life. Eventually, she began having a period every six weeks without pain. After medication her ovaries shrank to a healthy size, her tubes were clear, and her uterus was healthy.
Bryan had been diagnosed with low sperm count. After taking the vitamins Dr. Jacobs had prescribed, Bryan’s sperm count returned to normal within a month.
Dr. Jacobs had another recommendation for Kathleen. “You are overweight,” he said bluntly. “If you want to get pregnant, you will make the changes needed.”
She had lived with so much pain over the years that it had been hard to go to the gym. Although she had weighed 115 lbs when she graduated college, she had crept up to 168 lbs.
Kathleen made the decision to work out and eat healthy. In three months, she lost 14 lbs.
The next step in reaching Kathleen’s goal of pregnancy was to try an IUI (intrauterine insemination). Due to her Catholic beliefs, she didn’t want to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). But she and Bryan were supportive of trying IUI.
Fifteen days after their first IUI attempt, Kathleen took a pregnancy test. She was pregnant!
For the last 15 years, Kathleen had been told that she could not get pregnant. Yet here was proof that she was going to have a baby. She couldn’t stop the happy tears from running down her face.
Now 29 weeks along, Kathleen can’t wait until she can hold her child in her arms. “I have always felt it as my calling to be a mother,” she says. “We absolutely attribute this baby, this miracle, to Dr. Jacobs and his knowledge and expertise. His skill and desire to help made our dream of parenthood come true.”