I’m cystic, baby.

22 Aug

The other major bit of news from my appointment was the results of my ultrasounds and bloodwork.  Despite an inconclusive ultrasound, my absent (going on 7 months, baby) periods, slightly-high hair growth and elevated testosterone are enough to diagnose me (more convincingly, this time) with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Awesome.

So although my doc seemed in a real rush to get me out of her office so she could move on to the nice long queue of patients in the waiting room, she did actually provide me with way more information than I had gotten in my initial teenage-years visit to the walk-in clinic. That time around, I was basically told that my blood was normal but, um, well, you have PCOS anyway and you have to go on birth control and that will solve all your problems and make you menstruate liquid gold like clockwork each month.  Or something. Needless to say, this time around I was ready for some answers.

First off, apparently it is bad to not get periods. I always kindof sensed this, but didn’t really have any idea WHY. I figured it was not conducive to pregnancy because it indicated you probably weren’t ovulating, so that wasn’t good for those in the conception phase of life. But other than for fertility reasons, did it really matter? Apparently it does. Doc informed me that every month I go without menstruating is one more month that my uterine lining is building up, getting thicker and nastier. Gross. And that the more that happens, the greater the likelihood of developing endometrial cancer at a young age. Yuck. She said that most women who get endometrial cancer get it in the 40s; it tends to show up in PCOS-sufferers in their 30s.

Okay, so that sucks. Clearly I do not want CANCER. But how do I make Aunt Flow flow? She gave me two choices:

1) Birth control pills (surprise, surprise)

2) Progesterone pills (Provera… or whatever the generic name is)

I went with the latter. Although the Pill does provide some additional benefits that the progesterone does not (makes your boobs bigger, reduces acne & hair growth, conveniently balances out hormones that otherwise are going haywire 24/7… you get the drift), it also makes you infertile. And it also contaminates all those little fishies in the oceans that can’t have babies anymore because of all the weirdo hormones in the water system. Etcetera.

Anyway, after a heart-wrenching search all over town in an overly-emotional state, I finally got my greedy little hands on 1 cycle’s worth of the generic version of Provera. I have to take one tablet every day for a week and then I guess that tricks my body into believing it has ovulated and therefore needs to think about shedding that endometrium. Woo. Hoo. And after all the effort it took to secure the pills, I have already screwed up my dosage schedule by forgetting to take one last night and having to do it this morning instead. I’m hoping that doesn’t make the whole cycle for nothing. We’ll see. Either way, I basically need to force myself into a period once every three months, so I will likely end up doing a few more cycles of this while we sort out our fertility goals/situation.

But THAT, my friends, is a tale for another day.

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So, I’m not pregnant.

15 Aug

Back to the gyno today.  Got some answers.  And some new questions.

As far as the vestibulitis goes, doc didn’t have much to say.  Basically she thinks the lidocaine and dilation is working, I should keep doing it, blah blah blah.  Okay, thanks for making me wait 4.5 months to hear THAT.  The gist of it is that she doesn’t have any ideas to further my progress other than to keep doing what I’m doing.  She gave me a referral to a physiotherapist who might be able to help with some stretching and muscle exercises.  Unfortunately, I have only the teeniest tiniest health coverage right now, and no money for physio treatments.  So.  That sucks.

I’m going to do some research and figure out exactly what (if anything) will be covered by my health plan.  I’m not holding out too much hope, but you never know, right?  Spouse and I have decided to book at least an initial appointment, and see what the physiotherapist says.  After that we can gauge whether it will be helpful and whether we can somehow make it work financially.  It’s hard for me to see how that would be possible, but miracles happen.  In the mean time… I don’t know.  Things have been better in the sense that we have been able to ACTUALLY DO THE SEX THING once in a while, but “sexy” it is not.  At least not for me.  Because all those orgasmic moans are actually just coping mechanisms to increase my pain tolerance.  Hot, right?

As far as PCOS goes, I got my test results, a new prescription, etc., etc., but THAT’s a post in itself!

 

Keep on rocking your sexual dysfunction, honeys.

the waiting game

2 Aug

It’s been six months since my last period.  That was the ONLY period I have had since coming off the Pill.  Time flies, eh?  Six.  Months.

Three days ago, I had some slight (but unmistakable) spotting.  I figured that menstruation was just around the corner, but was a little confused by the lack of cramps or sore boobs.  I mean, I ALWAYS have cramps and sore boobs to the point of misery.  But whatever, I figured they would come soon enough.

Then the next day, no cramps, no sore boobs, and no blood.

Then the next day, nothing again.

I became suspicious.  Could this be implantation bleeding?  The timing would make sense with the last time we had intercourse (a week and a half ago).

Peed on a stick this morning: negative.

And then today, very subtle spotting yet again.  Still no other symptoms.  I know it would still be fairly early for anything to show up on a pregnancy test.  And I also  know that sometimes spotting happens, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

So now I am waiting and wondering and trying to figure out what to hope for.

Sounds ultra.

26 Jun

So I finally picked my bum up and walked it down to the hospital for my bloodwork and ultrasound to confirm PCOS.  It was my first ultrasound, and it felt really weird.  I felt like I was in a movie, you know, going for my first ultrasound and expecting to see a fetal heartbeat or something.  Tears of joy or whatever.  Instead it just looked like a horror movie – a storm of black and white and static-y shapes in my empty womb.  I have no idea what the ultrasound showed – the tech (nurse?) just told me, “I’ll forward these to your doctor.”  Um, ok.  She also made a comment about my bladder being mostly empty.  That’s a new one.

In addition to the Kodak moment baby-finder ultrasound, they did an internal one.  I didn’t have a chance to say, “By the way, I have vulvar vestibulitis, so I might have a hard time with the insertion…”  She just threw a condom on, some lube and POPPED it in.  It didn’t hurt, exactly.  Just a bit uncomfortable, but I guess that is probably a normal sensation when someone sticks a piece of technology inside your vagina.

So I was all set to go see my gynaecologist a couple weeks later to get the results of these tests and discuss what my next step is in addressing my reproductive health.  Appointment was made, and I was eagerly awaiting the date.  And then, I got a new job.  Which starts on the same morning as my appointment.  And is the type of job where you can’t do things like miss the first day.  Anyway, the end result is that my doctor is booked up COMPLETELY until mid-August, so I have to delay my appointment by another month and a half.  Lame.

I guess that makes this the no-update update.

lidocaine 101

5 Jun

In response to a question from Emily in the comments, I am going to sum up my vulvar vestibulitis treatment program from my diagnosis at the end of 2010 to now.  Here it is:

Step One:

I started treating with lidocaine as soon as I was diagnosed, on the recommendation of my gynaecologist.   The type of lidocaine I use is Xylocaine 2% jelly, and it comes in a little tube from the pharmacist (no prescription needed, but they keep it behind the counter) for about 15 bucks.  I find I go through a tube about every month or three weeks.  For the first three months after my diagnosis, I applied lidocaine twice daily.  In the morning after showering, I used a dime-sized glob on my finger and tried to press it into the vestibule area.  This was difficult at first, and I really didn’t know if I was doing it correctly.  I would try to press the area with my finger and stretch it out for a few seconds.  I have heard of some people leaving the lidocaine on for half an hour and then washing it off, but my GYN didn’t suggest that, so I just apply it and leave it on for the day.  At night before bed (and AFTER using the toilet!!!) I squeezed another dime-sized blob of lidocaine onto a cotton ball and inserted the cotton ball halfway into my vagina.  This stays in all night.  After three months of this morning/night application, I went back for a check up and my doctor found that my sensitivity had DRASTICALLY decreased.  In my initial appointment, she had gently poked the vestibule with a Q-tip and I gasped in pain, but after three months of lidocaine treatment, I felt only a dull discomfort.  I should also mention that during this time I did not attempt intercourse AT ALL and only had finger penetration a few times (with varying degrees of discomfort).

Step Two:

After the initial success of the lidocaine, my doctor decided it was time for me to start dilation.  I continued with the morning/night lidocaine routine, and added in ten minutes of dilation per day.  The dilator was purchased from the gynaecology practice for $15, and is about an inch in diameter.  To dilate, I applied a larger amount of lidocaine to my vaginal opening, waited ten or fifteen minutes for it to ‘kick in’ and then inserted the dilator (with lubricant).  At first, this was a little painful, but my body adjusted to it fairly quickly and I was able to practice moving it in and out of my vagina or moving it subtly from side to side to stretch things out a bit more.  At this point, I was feeling very motivated and I decided to try to dilate twice a day.  After a few weeks of this, the discomfort was gone, and I decided I needed something larger to dilate with.  My gynaecologist had told me that the ‘next step’ would be to use something “penis-sized.”  The difference between my partner’s size and the dilator was pretty substantial, though, so that wasn’t really going to work for me.

Step Three:

I tried penetration with my partner, and we were only able to get his penis in a couple of inches before it was too painful, so I knew I needed to dilate more.  My GYN had recommended going to a sex shop and buying a dildo, so we went out and picked something that seemed to be in between the size of my first dilator and my husband’s penis.  I have been dilating with this for a little while now, using the same technique as before, but I have to admit that it is much more painful than the first dilator had been.  I have been able to insert it fairly comfortably if I stimulate my clitoris at the same time, but I have to go very slowly in order to avoid pain.  I will admit that since this is more painful and requires more ‘work’ than the first dilator I have not been as faithful in doing it every day, but writing the post is making me realize I need to maintain my treatment schedule to see results!  I have also been able to have limited success with actually having intercourse or at least getting my husband’s penis fully inside me.  So far, I have approached intercourse by applying a generous quantity of lidocaine, then using the dilator for a few minutes to prepare my body for penetration.  I will masturbate to the point of orgasm, and then remove the dilator and attempt intercourse.  It is painful still.  I can feel three types of discomfort: the feeling of stretching that is aided by dilation; the pain of pressure on the vestibule as my husband moves in and out; and a fairly intense pain that seems to be in the cervix area and only happens when he is thrusting in more deeply.  I am hoping that by continuing with the lidocaine and dilation, I will soon not only be able to have reduced pain, but will also be able to move more freely and use different positions that will also help eliminate discomfort.

And now my question to you, my lovely ladies: What positions or techniques have worked for you in reducing your pain during intercourse?  I need your suggestions to try to make this work.  Please don’t be shy in providing more graphic details – you can always comment anonymously.  It is very helpful to know the specific mechanics of these things, as I find even a very slight shift of position can make the difference between something being reasonably comfortable or incredibly painful.

That Other Reason I’m Not Using Contraceptives

4 Jun

I know, I know, I’ve gone on and on about it already.  But I had to mention it, because it represents a big shift in my perspective on “family planning” (whatever that means).  As you are all likely aware by now, I have fertility issues.  I’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and am in the process of confirming that diagnosis with some tests and a second opinion.  Regardless of the label, the reality is that when I am unmedicated (read: off the Pill) I only get five or six periods a year.  This is likely genetic, as my mom has similar symptoms and had to use fertility drugs for her pregnancies.  So, no periods mean no ovulation.  No ovulation means no babies.  And if my chances of getting pregnant are significantly reduced, then I just don’t know that I really want to eliminate them for so many of my most ‘reproductive’ years.  I am at my PRIME right now, ad I still can hardly muster an ovulation.  Do I really want to stop the process completely?

I get why people want to wait to have kids.  I really do.  I felt the same way, in fact, for a long time.  I thought it was crazy to get pregnant before being married AT LEAST two years, if not more.  I still kindof feel that way, because I want my marriage to be as strong and established as possible before the upheaval that is pregnancy and parenthood.  I want to be a more mature, wise, in-control person so I don’t drive my husband crazy or have a meltdown.  And yet the fear lingers.  That deep, dark infertility fear.  I don’t want to wake up ten years from now, biological clock screaming it’s alarm bells in my ears, and realize that I am absolutely DESPERATE to get pregnant.  I don’t want to be desperate.  I don’t want to drive myself insane with fertility treatments that become increasingly drastic as I become increasingly infertile.  I don’t want to be filled with regret thinking of all those years I spent ‘protecting’ myself against pregnancy only to discover that I have missed my chance.

And a little bit, if I’m begin totally honest, I want to get pregnant.  Even though mostly I don’t.

On Unprotected Sex: The Newbie Perspective

29 May

I will begin this post by a grand pronouncement: My husband and I have officially consummated our marriage.

Of course, it was consummated in our hearts long ago, but now it’s LEGAL.  We’ve only managed to pull it off once, but we did it with no form of contraception.

And this leads me to the point of this post, which is not losing my virginity (because that is something I think I am allowed to be privately happy about without vomiting the details all over the Internet!) but about our choice to forgo “protection” at this time.  Why have we made this insane decision when we are a) broke and b) not actually wanting to have kids just yet?

Well, it’s complicated.  There are a bunch of reasons why I stopped taking the Pill in the first place, and you can read about them in earlier posts.  But there’s more to it than that, and a lot of it has to do with a fundamental shift in my thoughts on conception, pregnancy, birth, and family.  The big idea is this:  birth is not something to be controlled.

There is something wrong with the way we see pregnancy, with the way I have always seen pregnancy.  It is like the bogeyman.  It is the killer of women’s liberation.  It is a ball and chain.  It is scary.  It is too “feminine” in all the wrong ways.  It is rooted in the body, not the mind, and so it must be kindof silly.  That is, women who ARE pregnant are silly.  As are women who WANT to be pregnant.  It is the thing we threaten teenagers with to drive them to abstinence.  It is like hellfire and brimstone.  And our bodies are the sources of all this badness, so they too must be bad.

Consider the way we talk about reproduction, because our language betrays our underlying beliefs.

Take as a starting point the ubiquitous term “birth control.”  Birth control?  Has there ever been anything more mysterious, more out-of-human-hands than the formation of new life?  Sure, we have SOME SAY in it, obviously.  But we can’t force a pregnancy to happen.  We can’t force a baby to live.  And, despite our best efforts at controlling conception, we often mess up and end up with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.  The idea of being in control of this enormous force in our lives is appealing, especially in our highly individualistic culture.  But let’s not kid ourselves.   Somewhere inside you, in some secret place, tiny things that you can’t even see strike each other and create a spark of life.  We are not really in control of all this stuff.  And do we want to be?  The phrase “Birth Control” does, afterall, have an unsettling similarity to a few other phrases in our society; “pest control” comes to mind.

There are the categories of birth control.  “Barrier” methods don’t sound very loving.  I don’t need to separate my husband’s body from mine with a barrier.  I don’t need to destroy what his body has made with spermicide.  Spermicide sounds scary and toxic, like DEET.  But these aren’t mosquitoes we’re talking about here.  I don’t need “protection” when I have sex with my husband.  Sex with my husband is inherently safe, because it is with him.  It is always “safe sex.”  I am not afraid of him giving me diseases and I am not afraid of having a child with him (of course motherhood is scary, but not in a way that I need to be SHIELDED from!).

So we’ve abandoned the condoms.  I have a pack of unopened pills sitting in the medicine cabinet.  I’m not dogmatic about all this.  I GET why people use contraceptives.  There’s no judgement here!  And I also recognize that if I were a regularly-ovulating woman I might be MORE afraid and less laissez-faire about the whole thing.  If I thought that pregnancy was likely rather than vaguely possible, that might change things.  This is just a part of my slow uncovering of how I feel about my reproductive health, about my body, about my relationship.  In a few weeks, I will end up back at the GYN’s office, getting the results of my PCOS testing.  She might tell me to go back on the Pill, and right now, I can’t say for sure what I will tell her.  But probably it will start with, “Well, before I do anything, I should probably take a pregnancy test…”

And we’ll just go from there.