By Orlando Health
The hormonal rollercoaster of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) wreaked havoc on Erika life for years, causing unpredictable menstrual cycles, acne and fertility challenges. Living with PCOS also made birth control choices another monthly problem for the busy marketing professional.
With PCOS, ovaries develop tiny cysts, preventing them from working properly. The condition creates a hormonal imbalance by producing higher amounts of male hormones. In addition to the symptoms Erika experienced, this can trigger excessive body hair and weight gain. PCOS also can contribute to long-term health issues such as infertility, diabetes and heart disease.
Like many suffering PCOS, Erika’s symptoms showed up early in life. “When I was in high school, I noticed my cycles were irregular, and there wasn't any particular reason why,” she says. “I was very thin and athletic, and didn't have a great deal of female features. I also had terrible acne.”
Looking for an Answer
Diagnosing PCOS can be tricky. Her mother took Erika to the gynecologist, where tests revealed she had high levels of testosterone. Though not 100 percent sure she had PCOS, the doctor put the teenager on birth control pills to regulate her cycles and hopefully clear her skin.
For a while, this worked. Until it didn’t. Erika noticed even with hormonal birth control, her periods remained inconsistent. Monthly bleeding could last longer than normal – or shorter. When Erika was ready to start her family, she went off birth control pills. To her frustration, she had difficulty conceiving.
“With PCOS, infertility can be a big problem,” says Erika, who went to a reproductive endocrinologist for a complete fertility workup. “For me, it made getting pregnant difficult.”
Following the birth of her son, Erika sampled a buffet of birth control options, from the pill and the ring to copper and hormonal IUDs. Controlling her cycles began controlling her life.
I'm so much happier. The surgery provided me with exactly what I wanted, to close one chapter and move on to the next — enjoying my life and the future with my son. – Erika, Gynecology Patient
Time to Make a Change
As she approached her 40th birthday, Erika decided to take command of the situation. Her son had just turned 10. She knew her family was complete. With a milestone birthday looming, she decided to rethink her reproductive health options.
“I wanted to have a permanent form of birth control that didn’t mess with my hormones at all,” says Erika, who also hoped for a way to reset her menstrual cycles without medication.
Armed with notes and questions, Erika made an appointment with Dr. Pranav B. Chudgar, a board-certified OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates.
“I found Dr. Chudgar when I moved here,” says Erika. After her first appointment with him in 2014, she switched all her doctors to Orlando Health physicians. “He took his time talking with me about my entire history and concerns, then listened to what I wanted to do with his help.”
In consultation with Dr. Chudgar, she decided to have her fallopian tubes removed laparoscopically to prevent pregnancy and eliminate the need for contraception. While fallopian tubes don’t have a hormonal function, Erika hoped the surgery might ease some symptoms of PCOS, specifically irregular menstruation.
“If somebody is 100 percent certain their family is complete, like Erika, a tubal ligation is a great option for contraception,” says Dr. Chudgar, who provides comprehensive healthcare for women at all stages of life.
Experiencing the ‘Winnie’ Difference
Once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, Erika’s surgery was scheduled as an outpatient procedure at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. Nationally recognized as a leader in labor and delivery, Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital also offers a wide array of comprehensive gynecological services.
“I was really excited about having my surgery at Winnie,” says Erika. “I had heard a lot of really great things about the hospital, mostly it was related to the birth of babies. But a friend shared her story about having her fibroids removed and how it was just a great place if you ever needed anything done.”
“The nursing staff and all the staff treated me with so much just honest-to-goodness care – like I was special,” she says. “They listened to what I needed, asked me tons of questions about whether I was comfortable and helped me feel less nervous. They explained everything that was going to happen and asked me if I had any questions as well.” Since her surgery, Erika’s cycles have leveled out. She’s lost weight. Her skin is clearer. There’s a growing list of mother-son adventures on the horizon.
“I'm so much happier,” she says. “The surgery I had at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer provided me with exactly what I wanted, to close one chapter and move on to the next — being 40 and enjoying my life and the future with my son.”