Now that I’ve taken both drugs I wanted to write about my experience with both drugs, and to hear about other’s experiences, too. Without further ado:
I’ve known I had PCOS for a very long time. Thirteen years, now. I was diagnosed when I was 19. I decided to stop taking the birth control because it made me angry, and I was also had reservations about the long-term impact of synthetic hormones. After nine months and no period, I went to an OBGYN who diagnosed me with PCOS. I promptly jumped back on the birth control band wagon and didn’t look back for five years.
When I was 24 I finished my Master’s degree and relocated from Austin to Denver. My father was terminally ill, and sex and boyfriends weren’t on my radar, so I stopped taking the pill. I will never take birth control for, well, birth control ever again. Can anyone say IUD? Copper, mind you, the copper IUD.
With the transition from graduate student to working professional, I also graduated to a healthier lifestyle. I was more active and I was eating the right foods. Unwittingly, I was even following a pretty good diet for a PCOSer, despite my ignorance. From the age of 24 to 31 I’ve weathered the storm of PCOS, and I have a pretty good idea of how it affects my body. What I take away from all of it is that I’m pretty lucky. The evil PCOS side effects trifecta includes hirsutism, weight, and acne, but I’m only plagued by one.
Hirsutism: Oh, the dreaded hair growth. Bloggers could write for days about hair sprouting in inappropriate places. I’m not one of them. I think my genes are on my side here. My dad was not a hairy man and nor is my brother. I’m blond and fair, and I just don’t have a lot of hair. Period. I do have a pretty large forehead and every once and a while I panic thinking that the testosterone is resulting in male pattern hair loss. I think I may be a bit reactionary on this, but it is a trifle frightening. However, I have no doubts that I will be a bald old lady. No doubt in my mind.
Weight: Looks like I’ve been let off easy here, too. I’ve never been the smallest person in town, and my childhood nickname was Chunk. From the Goonies. (Funny, Big Brother, funny.) But in reality I’m 5’7″ and I currently weigh 140 pounds. I have been heavier, but only by 5-8 pounds, which is about one step up in clothing size. Also, I gain my weight in my hips, not my stomach like many of my compatriots.
Acne: By the title of this post, you have probably surmised that the PCOS side effect that plagues me daily is acne. To be specific, acne on my back. Back + Acne = Backne. I hate the backne. It isn’t just the average pimple, but large cystic sores that are more likely to be filled with blood, as opposed to water or pus. Ew. Gross. I know. They last for weeks, if not months, and they inevitably leave scars. I didn’t have backne until I stopped taking birth control in my 20′s, and then it reared its ugly, ugly head. All puns are intentional here. I suppose that genetics are not on my side in this situation. Both my brother and my sister had terrible backne when they were teenagers. In order to get rid of it they both took high doses of accutane. In case your wondering, my sister is incredibly fertile with normal ovaries.
I’ve tried a myriad of methods to curtail the backne because it’s gross, and I hate it. These included topical solutions as well as naturopathic solutions. The only method that has been effective, thus far, is the drug spironolactone. Spironolactone is a diuretic that acts upon the liver. It also is known to suppress androgens. Spironolactone is the reason I was able to wear a beautiful strapless dress for my wedding without applying makeup to my back. I started the medicine as soon as we were engaged in order to clear things up.
Spironolactone is not safe to take while trying to conceive. If you were to conceive a baby boy it would affect the development of his testes, it also results in endocrine problems for fetuses of both genders. So, over the past 18 months I’ve just dealt with the backne. Like I said earlier, it is impervious to topical solutions, both medicated and naturopathic, as well as internally ingested herbs and such. It has not improved with the metformin or my more stringent PCOS diet despite the reduced levels of testosterone and my regular cycle.
That was until the past couple of weeks. Ladies, there is progress. You know how they say the best thing for PCOS is diet and excercise? Well, I’ve had the diet under control for years, but while working on my dissertation I ignored the whole excercising bit. I’ve been excercising three to six times a week including yoga, pilates, running and weight lifting, without fail, since miscarriage #1 in March, and my backne is getting better. It feels like nothing short of a miracle.
What I’m really excited about is that this may also be a measure of improvements in the ovarian environment resulting in happier eggs. Maybe if I have happier eggs I can stop miscarrying and have a baby, already. For this reason, I will not, under any circumstances, stop this workout regimen. I’m in it to win it.
Today, metformin wins.
Once or twice a week I wake up feeling like absolute shit. I immediately have diarrhea. I’m nauseous. Eating is difficult, and I quickly develop a headache. This, in conjunction with ever present low energy levels, indigestion, and swinging blood sugar levels, makes me feel like a chronically ill person. I guess, technically, I am. However, I’ve never felt so crappy before in my life as I do while taking metformin.
As an aside, I’ve tried a gluten free diet, a dairy free diet, and a low-carb diet, alone and together. All to see if the the side effects would abate. Nada. No such luck. No discernible difference. I maintain the low GI/low-carb diet, but I eat dairy and gluten. It is hard to maintain a restricted diet when you don’t see any benefits.
I’ve been taking metformin for a year now. It immediately shortened and regulated my cycles without the aid of Clomid or Femara. That doesn’t mean I’ve grown fond of it. I can’t wait to stop taking this nasty, pernicious drug. I would love to get pregnant already, have a baby, and say, “Fuck You, Metformin!”
Today, metformin wins because Big Guy and I were going to go for a hike but the nasty diarrhea, the headache, the ensuing fatigue, it was all too much for me. Plus, it resulted in irritability and angst. I wouldn’t have been that good of company, anyway. Big Guy went alone.
You win, Metformin, you win.
OMG. I got a for real positive OPK this morning. All this time, all those sticks, never a positive one in sight. Don’t misunderstand me here. I have been ovulating, but it is a “weak” ovulation (in the words of my RE). When I am getting closer to ovulation my OPKs always kinda look positive if you squint and dim the lights. I count that as positive. But, this morning? A for real positive, as in a test line darker than a control line. That was really fucking fun.
Due to the fact that I’m living out of a hotel room with Big Guy in Palm Springs, I quickly realized that I did not have the alcohol wipes for the trigger shot. I briefly considered skipping the alcohol wipe, but then had some misgivings about the potential of an infection. So, I ambled on over to Rite Aid and picked up some wipes. I was planning on putzing around the interwebs at a coffee shop, so I stirred things up in my car and injected myself in my belly in the parking lot.
While mixing things up I briefly wondered if anyone was going to become alarmed at the sight of a woman clearly preparing a syringe of something in her car in the parking lot of a Rite Aid. Mid-injection I heard sirens right behind me. ”For real?”, I thought. Not for real. An ambulance passing through. However, for one moment I envisioned lecturing some police officers about infertility sensitivity and NIAW.
This is my first trigger shot, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was alarmed at the stinging and burning. It lasted for about ten minutes. About an hour later I noticed that the injection site was kinda poofy and painful to touch. This hasn’t gone away. My sensitive right ovary is no longer sensitive. My cervix is no longer quite so fertile. I’m now bloated and exhausted. I feel as if I climbed a mountain today. I did not. I went to the post office, drank some decaf at a coffee shop while madly preparing ICLW comments, ate at a natural grocery, and watched the latest episode of Revenge. This is not climbing a mountain.
Anyone else have a weird reaction to the trigger at the injection sight? Any other side effects I should be aware of?
I woke up in a pool of nasty last night. Nope, didn’t have an “accident”, just a hot flash. I finished my last dose of Clomid on CD 7, or Saturday, and it seems as if the side effects are just kicking in. To recap, this is my first medicated cycle, and I took 100 mg of Clomid on cycle days 3-7. I’m currently on CD 10.
Additional Clomid observations:
- Holy-moly emotions. I will freely admit that I’ve been a bit of a mess. I’ve cried every day. I’ve railed against the injustices of life. I’ve written unhappy blog posts. I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping. I will not be attending a viewing of Titanic in 3-D. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- Heavy ovaries. Those suckers seemed to plump up nicely, but, again, I didn’t notice this until after my last dosage. Is this weird? Side effects after you complete the the med cycle?
- Spotting. It is unusual for me to spot after my period ends, but this cycle I spotted for four days afterwards, which took me to my final day of Clomid. I’ve surmised that this could be a product of post-miscarriage cycle weirdness or the Clomid. Either one.
- Headache. Ugh. Headaches are awful, and hormone headaches are the worst. Well, my cleanse headache was pretty voracious and was completely resistant to any drugs. This guy that is bouncing around in my head is currently hovering on the right side, above my temple. He says, “Hi.”
- I hesitate to even write this for fear of screwing with fate, but did anyone find that Clomid had a constipating effect? I can’t complain. Anything that will slow down the havoc Metformin wreaks on my digestive tract is awesome.
I have an appointment with my RE for an ultrasound on Thursday, or CD 12. I hope I have two awesome follicles. I hope that they are 18 cm or larger. I hope that they say, “Let’s trigger!”. Here’s to hope.