In January 2018, I went to see the doctor following two months of continuous pain in my left side. We discussed how my husband and I had been trying to fall pregnant for four years but to no avail. I was referred to the fertility clinic – despite me assuring the doctor my weight was too high for the referral to be accepted. I was also referred for an ultrasound and transvaginal scan, nothing I hadn’t experienced before as I have never had normal periods. The doctor diagnosed me ahead of my scan results coming back and told me she felt following blood tests I had PCOS. My scan results showed no trace of cysts on my ovaries and upon asking for copies of my blood test results, I saw there was never actually any confirmation of PCOS. Months had passed by this point, and to add insult to injury while I waited with no actual diagnosis of what was wrong, I also received a rejection letter from the fertility clinic. Not surprisingly, they told me my BMI was too high for a fertility referral.
Following the negative experience with my doctor, I spent the next six months trying to work on my mental health. The experience and continuous pain were taking their toll on my anxiety, sleep, diet, and relationship. 2018 drew to an end, the pain had started to lift and I had high hopes for 2019.
January 2019, after a night of changing tampons every half an hour to an hour, I pressed on with work and inspecting a nursing home. The heavy flow was continuing, despite my hopes of it passing or easing up. It peaked when five minutes after changing, I was stock checking medicines and felt light headed. The flooding feeling hit me and there was a crippling pain in my stomach. Needless to say, I left work that day and headed home. The next few hours were a blur, I spent them mostly on the loo or curled in a ball on my bed in agony. It was like the tap had been turned on full, with no sign of slowing down. I phoned 111 (NHS support in the UK) and was advised to go straight to hospital, to not wear a tampon but to wear a pad instead – this was so the doctor could see how much I was bleeding.
My husband came home from work early and drove me to the hospital. By the time I had arrived, I had bled through my supersized surfboard of a sanitary towel, through my underwear and my leggings. After checking in at the hospital, I needed to go to the bathroom, for my own dignity and to try and address some of the murder scene that was taking place in my underwear. Despite being covered in blood, uncontrollably crying my eyes out and feeling like I was going to pass out, a nurse banged on the door and demanded I produce some urine in a tiny pot – so she could check I was not pregnant and miscarrying. That has been the most demoralising moment of my life. My hands, clothes, body and the toilet cubicle covered in blood, but still a demand for me to prove I was not pregnant – something I had craved being for years. I was unable to produce much urine. The nurse barely looked at me before growling about how little I had given her to check with. The poor bedside manner was humiliating. It was confirmed I was not pregnant. The doctor who saw me advised me to take time off work, wait for it to stop and to make an appointment with my personal doctor to get a gynaecology referral.
Following another visit to see a different doctor to ask for the referral to a gynaecologist, I was sent straight back to the hospital for an internal examination. Following this, I was given a prescription for Tranexamic Acid and Mefenamic Acid, which worked quickly to help. A referral was made to the gynaecologist and I saw them in March 2019. Following a hysteroscopy at that appointment, it was found that I was seven uterine polyps and a thickened lining. The consultant advised me that the pains I had experienced to varying degrees since November 2017 were likely to be due to the polyps. I was told I would need to have the polyps removed and biopsied. My operation took place seven months later, the biopsies were removed, and my uterine lining was “scraped”, also known as a dilation and curettage. While coming round from the anaesthetic, I was told “You need to take this as your prompt to start losing weight.” There had been no recognition of the fact I had lost 10kg since I had previously seen the consultant. No acknowledgement of how hard it had been, but I had lost 20kg in the year prior to that.
At my follow up appointment I was told my body was producing too much oestrogen. I was given the diagnosis of hyperplasia without atypia. The way this diagnosis was described to me was that my high oestrogen levels were causing a thickened lining and the production of uterine polyps. If my body continued doing this without any medical intervention, my risk of cancer would increase and my chances of falling pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy were small. The options were the Mirena Coil or the progesterone pill. Given the links associated to the pill with weight gain, I was given the coil as my only option. It was fitted there and then, with instructions that I needed to have six monthly appointments for biopsies to be taken of my uterine lining. I was advised that there would need to be two clear biopsies before they would take the coil out, to reduce my chances of my hyperplasia contributing to future female cancers.
My life changed at that point. The constant stresses of ovulation and pregnancy tests was stopped, because I had no option. While those stresses lifted, the emotional investment I had in wanting so badly to fall pregnant was still there. My mental health has taken a beating since then, and I haven’t noticed any of the so-called “benefits” that the consultant pitched to me about the coil. It has been five months and I see traces of blood almost every day, as well as having ten-day light periods.
While I have focused on physical exercise, trying to eat as well as I can, both are an ongoing battle when my mental health takes a hit. The pregnancy announcements, friends and family having babies, and the questions I get about when I will get pregnant, all trigger the emotional pain and heartache. When I think back to the pain that I was experiencing that prompted my initial doctor’s appointment in January 2018, I had never heard of uterine polyps, hyperplasia, and certainly never saw having the coil as something I would need to have. If I could re-educate myself back then with what I know now, I feel I could have gone into this more prepared. However, I have no option but to accept my fertility journey will not be quite as planned, if I ever get to where I want to be. But, there are options, there are possibilities and the future still has some potential to help my husband and I create the family we have wanted for years.
It has been therapeutic to write about what has happened these past two and a half years, and to put it all into words. Words that won’t be said when a friend asks why I haven’t been to see their new-born, or another friend tells me if I just relax then it helps fertility, the old “the moment you stop trying, that’s when most people get pregnant.” Thank you for the opportunity to do this.