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“I carried to term by the grace of God alone” Thato Nyama opens up about her experience with Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Not so long ago, I was going through Instagram stories when I saw Thato Nyama’s stories. She was doing a throwback to when she broke the news of her pregnancy to her friends and family. These posts were heartwarming and they made me cry, something that never happens. That’s when I decided to ask Thato if they (her and her husband) had been trying for a baby. Judging from the way her friends and family responded to her news, I could tell that Thato may have had issues conceiving. My question was a bit intrusive, but to my surprise, Thato responded and said, yes, “I had to undergo fertility treatment because I couldn’t conceive. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and had surgery earlier in the year” Before that, I had never heard of polycystic ovaries (I checked my privilege real quick).

Polycystic ovary syndrome is defined as a disorder involving infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual periods, and often excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries develop numerous small collections of fluid — called follicles — and may fail to regularly release eggs.

After doing my research, I asked if Thato could talk to me about this and she agreed, below is our conversation.

What were your feelings about kids and a family growing up? Were you a typical girl who wanted kids and a husband?
Yes absolutely. I grew up in a home with both mom and dad and they modeled a healthy marriage and family life to us, so I always knew I wanted to have a family when I grow up. I also always loved kids and am the favourite aunt to my nieces and nephews even though I’m the strictest.

Did you and your husband discuss having kids?
We got married in 2018, and yes, we discussed kids. In our pre-marital counseling, this was one of the important topics. we discussed when we want to start a family, how many kids we want, preferable age gaps, and parenting styles especially in terms of discipline, etc.

When was the first time you realized that you may have a problem conceiving?
I’ve had gynecological issues for the most part of my adult life. I have had surgery and treatment for Endometriosis in 2016. In 2019, we tried for a baby naturally and after 6 months of many negative tests, I decided to see a doctor. I know normally they advise you to see a doctor after trying for a year, but I just had a feeling something was wrong and since I had a medical history of gynae problems. I decided to rather go check than wait any longer. I went to different doctors who dismissed me and made me feel like I was exaggerating. They said I was young and maybe I’m just impatient. I eventually went back to my family gynae and she ran tests on both of us. I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and it was also discovered that I was actually not ovulating at all, so, no matter how long I waited, and we tried, we were never going to get pregnant without medical intervention. 

What was the first thing that came to mind when the doctor told you that you had polycystic ovaries?
I work in the medical field and both my parents are clinicians as well, so I knew about the condition but had no idea all that its treatment entails. I was very worried that my infertility was permanent, and my first thought was solution mode. Let’s do EVERYTHING we can to fix this. My doctor followed my lead and went in guns blazing in terms of my treatment plan because I was not interested in a conservative approach. 

You mentioned that you had surgery after you got diagnosed? Was surgery the only way to heal/cure it?
The surgery was explorative and not to cure the PCOS. It was mainly to make sure that nothing else was wrong. During the surgery, the doctor found lots of adhesions (scar tissue) around my ovaries and fallopian tubes as well which she cleared. Luckily my endometriosis was not back so that was a good thing. After surgery, I was placed on fertility meds to stimulate ovulation and I had hormone level checks (blood tests) every week to see if things were on track. I was also placed on a special diet by a dietician as part of my treatment and took PCOS supplements as well. My husband was also prescribed a supplement. PCOS cannot really be cured but is a condition that can be managed. 

How soon after your surgery did you try for a baby?
Immediately (well almost, lol). Based on our medical intervention strategy, which was an aggressive one, as soon as I recovered which was maybe a week, we continued trying. We conceived the same month. We found out exactly 1 month after surgery and starting fertility treatment that we were pregnant. 

How did you find out you were pregnant?
I took regular pregnancy tests because this was part of my treatment. I didn’t wait to miss a period or any symptoms. So, one day as I was throwing out old negative pregnancy tests, I realized I still had one unused test so I peed on the stick just so I can throw it away lol. I never expected it to come out positive. 

What was the first thing that came to mind when you saw the positive result?
I was in shock and disbelief. My husband had just left the house to run an errand. I called him and told him to rush to the pharmacy to get a Clearblu digital test. He asked why coz we had so many tests at home and I said, “just bring it and hurry”. He came back and I took another test and it said, “pregnant 1-2”. We just sat there staring at the test with big eyes and then I burst into tears of joy.

Were you able to carry full term?
Yes, I carried to term by the grace of God alone. I had a very complicated and difficult pregnancy. I had a threatened miscarriage at 7 weeks and was placed on bed rest for 5 weeks. My blood pressure was consistently high in the beginning and I was placed on medication. I had hyperemesis gravidarum which is severe nausea and vomiting (not just morning sickness), it was so bad that it lasted until 30 weeks and I lost almost 16kg throughout my pregnancy. I was hospitalized for dehydration due to vomiting and not eating. I also then had a rare complication at 26 weeks where I was admitted to ICU with a pulmonary embolism which can be fatal – I was nearly resuscitated at one point because I could not breathe at all which was a very scary near-death experience. Due to my high-risk pregnancy, I was not given the option to deliver naturally which I agreed with and my doctor scheduled a c-section for 34 weeks. When we got to 34 weeks with no additional issues, she kept postponing so that baby has more time in the womb. We made it to 38 weeks and 4 days before the doctor decided that it was time. I never thought I would make it to full term with all the drama, but we made it to 9 months.

How did you feel the first time you held your child?
I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Like I was watching myself on TV lol. I couldn’t believe that after all, we went through, we made it to this day. When I heard his first cry I also cried. That feeling is indescribable. It felt like a hug from God Himself.

Are you going to be trying again or this is it?
We definitely want more kids (crazy right? considering everything we went through lol). When we are ready, we are going straight to the doctor for early intervention and not going to go through the stress and anxiety again because we know what’s wrong and what we need to do. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for another surgery.

What advice would you give to someone who might be going through what you went through?
My advice is DO NOT WAIT TO SEE A DOCTOR. Lots of people will tell you “don’t stress about it otherwise it won’t happen” or “just keep praying, it will happen in God’s time”. I’m not saying that is wrong advice, I’m just saying trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, rather go and get checked. And if your doctor dismisses your concerns, find a doctor that will take you seriously!

To keep up with Thato’s amazing journey, follow her on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thato_nyama/

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