Life was great, my husband and I had been married for 6 years, and were living in a home of our own which was ideal for raising a family. We both had good jobs; we recently refinanced, which gave us a little bit more cash every month. We always knew that we wanted children, but felt that it was important to have certain things in place before we started trying. Since I was working full time and had only 12 months of graduate school left, we decided it was finally time for us to try for a baby. After meeting with my OBGYN, I was told that I could stop taking birth control at any time and should conceive within 12 months. Perfect! If all went well, we’d be pregnant by the time I graduated.
Although I was in good health I decided it was time to step it up and begin a regular exercise program and began working out on a circuit 3x per week. I was 29, weighed about 145lbs, and at five foot seven, I was very happy with my body. After a few months of trying we weren’t surprised when we hadn’t conceived, but there were a few things that didn’t seem right. First, I was gaining weight like crazy! The only changes I had made to my diet were positive ones: more vegetables, less processed foods, etc. Second my body was not following the normal 28 day pattern. This wasn’t new for me, as I had experienced this in my teens, but it was something I needed to discuss with my doctor.
After 6 months of trying to conceive and a weight gain of ten pounds, my ObGyn told me not to worry, not to get impatient, and that pregnancy is something that takes time to achieve. He dismissed my weight gain as both bloating and “ just something that happens when women turn 30”. He instructed me in basal body temperatures, a means for tracking ovulation by taking your temperature first thing every morning, and sent me on my way, saying that both my weight gain and irregular cycle patterns were “normal”.
Two months of charting using basal body temperatures and it was easy to see that my body was not following the normal basal pattern. I also began to have significant back pain which increased as I got further into my cycle each month, my cycles were increasing in length and my bleeding was getting heavier with each cycle. Again, I contacted my ObGyn and spoke with a nurse who suggested that the weight gain might be a sign of PCOS/PCOD, and that I should wait until an upcoming appointment in two months to confirm diagnosis. I absolutely could not wait two months. The intense pain which worsened with every cycle made it impossible to do my job well. I hung up the phone, called my insurance company, and found another ObGyn who agreed to see me within the week.
Dr. P, my new ObGyn, was a bit more thorough than the first. She listened to me and recognized that my symptoms weren’t normal. She gave me medication for the pain and heavy bleeding; which was a huge plus, as it allowed me to continue working. She also insisted that I was clinically depressed and that depression was the reason I was having trouble both sleeping at night and waking in the morning. I don’t know how many women have stared a doctor in the eye and been told that they are not “right” when they have a medical problem, but I can tell you that the insinuation that my pain was not physical, but mental made me feel more helpless than I had ever felt in my life. If I were clinically depressed how could it be possible for me to function working full time, taking 2 graduate courses, maintaining my home while caring for my husband and animals? There was no way I was accepting that diagnosis. I left the office and managed to hold it together while I filled my prescription, then proceeded to burst into tears while I drove home.
As a result of my parents’ divorce early in my childhood, I had been through enough counseling to know when I needed help and my gut told me this just was not one of those times. Within hours of taking the naproxen which Dr. P prescribed, my pain went away. I was able to sleep at night and wake in the morning, even my students noticed how much better I was. Eventually my script ran out and I had to get to the bottom of my pain- the bleeding I could deal with-but the pain was keeping me from functioning.
By this time I was done with ObGyns. I decided to start from the beginning at a walk-in clinic where no one knew me and I might have a chance at objectivity. The Dr. at the walk in agreed that my pain was not normal and decided to take X-rays. The X-rays identified arthritis as the cause of my pain. While it is unusual to have arthritis at 30, I have scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, so it’s not unusual for arthritis to form around a curve like mine. I got more pain meds, and a script for Physical Therapy. After two months of PT the pain didn’t go away, but it was manageable. I was still exercising, still gaining weight and still not pregnant.