‘It’s all I want’ – Carer’s heartache after spending 10 years trying to start family
PUBLISHED: 19:00 05 November 2020
A 29-year-old woman from Chelmsford who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome as a child has shared her heartache of trying to start a family for more than a decade.
Kim O’Sullivan had just started high school when doctors told her she had a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.
The three main symptoms of PCOS mean a woman’s ovaries do not regularly release eggs, they have high levels of “male” hormones which can cause physical signs such as excess hair, and ovaries can become polycystic, becoming enlarged and containing many follicles that surround the eggs. It makes falling pregnant naturally much harder.
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Mrs O’Sullivan’s diagnosis was caught by a fluke, after she visited her GP to discuss her dizziness. Being quite young, she didn’t realise how much her infertility would make her suffer in the long-run.
At 19 years old Mrs O’Sullivan, who mainly suffers from weight-gain and excessive hair growth from PCOS, met her now husband Ryan and the pair started trying for a baby. After a year of no luck they went to the doctor, when IVF was free on the NHS in their area, and were told to come back in three years time.
They got married in 2014 and returned to the GP after continuing to struggle to fall pregnant. At this point Mrs O’Sullivan’s PCOS had gotten worse.
“At first I was quite embarrassed by the hair, but I am not as bothered anymore, it is part of me,” she said. “Hundreds of women are in the same boat, it is not something to be ashamed of.”
Mrs O’Sullivan underwent a number of different treatments to try to increase her fertility. She had a cervical screening test at 24 by a gynaecologist, tried metformin which is used to lower insulin levels to allow women to cycle more naturally and was put on clomid tablets to increase her progesterone levels.
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As none of the medications worked, Mrs O’Sullivan had a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling, which is used to destroy the tissue that’s producing androgens (male hormones) and can restore the normal function of the ovaries.
Unfortunately, Mrs O’Sullivan was still unable to fall pregnant, despite undergoing various treatment.
“I was heartbroken for the first few years,” she said. “I wanted to fall pregnant more than anything, it’s all I want.”
Mrs O’Sullivan, who now works as a carer, said she fell into a “deep depression” and kept herself overweight as it meant she had something to blame it on.
“It may sound silly, but I wanted to control everything so I keep myself big so I can blame myself for not falling pregnant,” she said.
“I can’t get my hopes up anymore.”
In recent years, Mr and Mrs O’Sullivan have tried to take a break from falling pregnant, and are moving into their first home together this year.
“We needed a break as it’s all you think about,” explained Mrs O’Sullivan. “It consumes you all the time, but we are in a better space now.”
Mrs O’Sullivan said she wishes her GP had warned her of the fertility issues PCOS can cause when she was first diagnosed, as she could have made more arrangements.
They are now planning to start in vitro fertilisation (IVF) next year – but are looking at having this done in Norway, where it is less than half the price and has a much higher success rate.
“It would cost us more than £6,000 plus the medication and scans here in the UK, and the percentage of those who fall pregnant is not as good,” she said.
“It feels like a bit of a money game.”
The couple have discussed other avenues, such as adoption, but plan to try one round of IVF once they are settled in their new home.
Mrs O’Sullivan urged other couples going through infertility issues to “be kind to yourself”.
She said: “Once you get a diagnosis read into it as soon as possible. Don’t let doctors dismiss you or discriminate you because of your age.
“If you are at the stage where you are struggling to get pregnant, don’t beat yourself up or break your own heart with what is going on around you. Stay as relaxed as you can and know what’s happening is not your fault.
“Be kind to yourself, nurture yourself and give yourself and the process time and patience.
“Be strong and fight for your right to become a parent. Hopefully the government draw a line under this postcode lottery and give all women across the UK a fair chance of motherhood. Without having to put themselves in debt.”
The O’Sullivan’s story is part of a series run by this newspaper to raise awareness for National Fertility Awareness Week, which runs from Monday, November 2 to Thursday, November 5.
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