Before I start my story, I want to say, I’m one of the lucky ones. I got my “happy ending,” but I know many women who share parts of my story have not. For those who are still struggling to conceive or get answers, I stand with you and support you as you continue on your own journey.
My own turning point came when I discovered I ovulate on Day 16-17, not on Day 14, as many people mistakenly think is true for most women. I found this out only after tracking my ovulation with a device that uses body temperature trends and in-cycle information — rather than the standard 28-day algorithm alone.
This was especially important because my own story is complicated by PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome – which is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. The device that allowed me to discover my individual cycle, OvuSense, closed a 48-hour gap that, previously unnoticed, left me out of sync with my cycle.
After just six months of using body temperature to better predict ovulation, I had my own BFP (big fat positive in internet lingo), and had my baby girl in January this year.
When I first started asking more detailed questions about my fertility, I never imagined I would go from fighting for a diagnosis to growing my family in under two years. For anyone in a similar situation, I would urge you to do your own research, and try and find women who have already fought their own battles so you can learn from their experiences.
Back to the Beginning
My own fertility journey started in my early 20s. My mother had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and I was starting to experience many of the same symptoms. Despite being vastly under-represented in the media – even in women’s publications – and underfunded in healthcare research, PCOS is estimated to affect 10% of women of childbearing age. Many experts believe this number is actually much higher as many cases go undiagnosed.
It can be incredibly hard to get a diagnosis because there isn’t much education around PCOS. This is particularly true if you don’t check the stereotypical boxes of visible symptoms that often come with the disease – namely being overweight or having facial hair. I knew my mother had struggled to have children and ultimately ended up going through fertility treatments, so I continued to push my doctors to run tests to try and diagnose this condition.
I say this is when my fertility journey started because this is when I first began to understand the impact this condition could have on my fertility when I was eventually ready to have kids. At the time, there wasn’t much research to support the genetic link to PCOS – that has since changed, as scientists discovered the first gene linked to PCOS earlier this year.
Advocating for yourself
On top of having PCOS, I was considered very young in the world of infertility, so I had a hard time finding a doctor who would take my questions and requests seriously. However, because starting a family was a priority for me, in my early 20s I decided to talk to a fertility specialist.
My doctor shared that despite having regular periods, I may not be ovulating regularly – which is common for women with PCOS. While my doctor did not fully understand PCOS or how this could impact my fertility, she did refer me to an endocrinologist who was able to diagnose me within minutes and prescribed metformin to help me ovulate.
As an exposure scientist in the military, I may be stationed abroad for long periods of time. I needed to know when I was ovulating so that when I did return home, I would be in the best position to try and get pregnant if I did have a limited window. In addition to being on metformin, I needed a reliable way to track my ovulation, as I wasn’t always able to see the same doctor for routine tests.
Navigating the ‘web’
As with any modern question, I turned to Google for more information. ‘The web’ is a particularly apt description of the internet for fertility research because it is truly a windy web of information – some more clinically valid than others. With the amount of wellness products, fertility devices and tech, and individual women sharing their experiences, it can be incredibly challenging to find accurate information. Add PCOS to that mix, and I truly felt like I was navigating an elaborate spider web with the golden ticket at the center.
Yet as anyone struggling with fertility will tell you, there is no golden ticket or one-size-fits-all solution. I began researching numerous products and apps for women dealing with infertility and/or PCOS.
Beyond providing information about specific tools and devices, doing my research online allowed me to connect with engaged communities of women who were going through the same experiences as me. This wasn’t something I had in my existing social circles or with my family, and provided immense value – not just in having a compassionate ear to talk to, but also in connecting me with information and resources.
It was in one of these communities that I first heard about OvuSense, which uses your own temperature trends and in-cycle information, which means it would still work with my PCOS.
I started tracking my ovulation with OvuSense in November last year, and finally felt like I had the information I needed about my cycle. While the general idea floating around is that everyone ovulates on day 14, research has shown this isn’t true.
Discovering my own inclination toward Day 16-17 turned out to be pivotal.
Taking Back Control
We often hear stories of women’s problems being diminished by doctors who may not fully understand the cause. This is unfortunately seen frequently with PCOS as it shares many of the same symptoms as a regular menstrual cycle – though much more intense. By advocating for myself, I was able to get the diagnosis I needed to move forward and ultimately give birth to my daughter.
I would urge any woman going through a similar experience to take back control of her fertility. Whether that is making lifestyle changes, taking supplements, or using tools that allow you to track both hormonal and ovulatory cycles, it’s important to arm yourself with as much information about your unique cycle as possible.