First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby...right? Well, not always! Most people expect that when they're ready to have their first child, they will be able to conceive relatively easily. But what happens when a diagnosis like PCOS complicates the journey?
In this article:
Meet Gabby & Shane
After meeting when Gabby was in graduate school and Shane was in the police academy, the couple began to envision a future together. They got married in October 2019 and enjoyed their new life together as husband and wife before starting to think about having children.
They bought their dream home, got a dog, and then decided it was finally time to grow their family. What they didn't anticipate, however, was trouble conceiving.
"We had been hoping it would just happen," Gabby says, "but when it didn’t, we decided to get serious and buy and try all the things [to help us conceive]." They purchased an Ava bracelet and ovulation predictor kits, as well as tracking Gabby's basal body temperature each morning, hoping for some answers as to why they weren't getting pregnant.
But then Gabby went through some unexpected health changes, gaining almost 20 pounds in two months and suddenly experiencing acne breakouts. She didn't realize it at the time, but she was experiencing many of the typical symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Struggling to Conceive with PCOS
"I felt crushed," Gabby says, "because right when we were ready to start a family, my hormones seemed to be out of control." After trying to conceive on their own for months and a few emotional trips to her OB/GYN, Gabby was officially diagnosed with PCOS and referred to one of Illume's fertility specialists, Dr. Joshua Hurwitz.
"I was really nervous, but I reached out to Illume and set up the appointment with Dr. Hurwitz," Gabby recalls. She was advised to undergo diagnostic testing to rule out any additional fertility issues, and once the test results came back, Dr. Hurwitz agreed that because of her PCOS, she would likely need a little help conceiving.
The couple agreed on a treatment plan with Dr. Hurwitz, deciding to start with intrauterine insemination (IUI). Their protocol included a trigger shot (to induce ovulation) and two days of back-to-back IUI procedures to increase their chances of success.
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fertility Treatment
"After our first round of IUI, I was crushed to find out that I still wasn't pregnant," Gabby says. "But I was excited to continue treatment and see what would happen." After their second round of IUI, it became more difficult for the couple to stay positive.
"I actually called Dr. Hurwitz and told him I no longer wanted to do this," Gabby remembers. "I just wanted to move on to IVF because it was too heartbreaking." He advised her to wait it out since it was only five days after their second round of IUI, promising that they could talk about switching to in vitro fertilization (IVF) if they got another negative pregnancy test.
A Happy Ending
A few days later, when Gabby went in to Illume for her blood work, she was elated to find out that the second round of IUI had actually worked - she was pregnant!
Thankfully, that pregnancy ended in the birth of their first child, a healthy baby boy named Cooper. Born in September 2022, Cooper has brought joy to not only his parents, but everyone around him, ever since.
"For now, we are loving and enjoying being mom and dad to our little Cooper," Gabby says. "But we can’t wait to someday come back to Illume and continue to expand our family!"
Why Every Story Matters
"Our journey wasn't as difficult as some other patients' that I met in the waiting rooms at Illume or stories I read online," Gabby says. "I feel really fortunate that I was able to get pregnant through IUI and that it worked for our family."
But while Gabby and Shane's path to parenthood wasn't as lengthy or complex as some, the experience of undergoing fertility testing and treatment (plus the emotional turmoil that fertility issues can cause) was just as painful and challenging.
"While going through those four hard months of testing, waiting, and wondering, I tried to remain hopeful," Gabby says. "Because I finally felt like I was in good hands and that there was a plan of action in place when I came to Illume."
Becoming a Fertility Warrior
One thing that took some getting used to for Gabby was the sheer amount of appointments and information she had to juggle on her fertility journey.
"As someone who has been fortunate to have been in great health all of my life, this was the most amount of doctor's appointments I’ve probably ever had," Gabby admits. "But the entire staff, nurses and doctors were so great to me."
One constant? "Across all the different offices, I always felt comfortable and eager to learn about what was happening," Gabby says. "Everyone always took the time to explain each step to me." Knowing what was next and understanding why each part of the process was necessary was reassuring for her.
Advice for Other PCOS Patients
Throughout her journey to motherhood, Gabby learned a lot about her body and her strength. She encourages other PCOS patients to reach out for support when they are struggling and lean on their Care Team throughout the entire experience.
"For anyone else trying to navigate PCOS - feeling like their body is failing them and like their hormones are all over the place, my best advice is to trust the process, listen to the recommendations, and follow the protocols," she says. "The doctors and nurses at Illume will guide you each step of the way."
Sierra Dehmler is Illume Fertility’s Content Marketing Manager - and also a fertility patient herself. Combining empathy gained on her personal journey with her professional experience in marketing and content creation, she aims to empower and support other fertility patients by demystifying the fertility treatment process.