“When you’re told at 19 years old that you’re probably never going to have a baby, and then you meet the love of your life…that’s so hard,” Heather says of learning about her slim chance of getting pregnant. “Luckily, I met a man who was okay with however it played out.”
It began with bad luck, when Heather was diagnosed with a serious case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) while she was still a teenager. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. Getting pregnant with PCOS can be difficult, and it is a common cause of infertility in women because it interferes with ovulation.
Young, in love and unwilling to give up, Heather and her husband, Michael, decided to see if infertility treatment would give them a chance at starting a family. In 2003 Heather scheduled an appointment with Dr. Carol Wheeler.
“Dr. Wheeler did an ultrasound to see what my follicles looked like to confirm that I had PCOS,” Heather explains. “Not only did they check me, but they checked my husband as well.”
From crying in the car after failures to pregnancy success
The ultrasound and a thorough workup confirmed Heather’s PCOS diagnosis as the cause of the couple’s fertility struggles. Dr. Wheeler recommended that Heather start taking Clomid, an oral medication that helps women ovulate. But it wasn’t long before Heather reached the maximum dose, and she was still struggling to get pregnant.
At that point Dr. Wheeler switched Heather to an injectable hormone called Follistim, which requires ongoing monitoring of the egg follicles on the ovaries. This monitoring allows for precision dosing (preventing overstimulation) and helps the couple time their intercourse with the release of an egg from the ovaries each month.
“I went in every other day if not every day to monitor the follicles,” Heather recalls. “It’s so hard when you just want a baby. Each month after I found out it didn’t work, I’d cry in my car for 20 minutes outside of the clinic before I drove to work. I’d call my husband on the phone and say, ‘Not this month.’”
Even through the challenges and hardships of getting pregnant with PCOS, Heather took comfort in the care she received at the hands of Dr. Wheeler.
“Everything that she does has a gold standard next to it,” Heather says emphatically. “Everything is precise with her. She wants to give a couple one healthy baby and one healthy pregnancy. She’s not only concerned about the baby – she’s concerned about Mom.”
That gold-standard care combined with patience and persistence did eventually lead to a healthy and successful pregnancy. Heather and Michael welcomed their son Ethan into the world at Women & Infants Hospital in 2004.
Shots for another shot at getting pregnant with PCOS
When they had Ethan 12 years ago, Michael and Heather weren’t financially ready to have another baby. More recently, both on the verge of turning 40, they thought they’d try for one more while they still could. This time they knew right where to turn.
“We called Dr. Wheeler and she knew exactly who we were after 12 years,” says Heather. “I can’t say enough about her. She is so on her game.”
Heather started again on injectable hormones and monitoring, and was able to get pregnant more easily this time around.
“They closely monitored the growth of the follicles,” Heather explains. “We also did some genetic testing this time. It was so convenient – everything is there at the Fertility Center.”
Much to their delight, Michael and Heather soon found out that they were pregnant with a baby boy. Their son Colton was born in March of 2017 at Women & Infants Hospital.
“Women & Infants truly is just a wonderful facility all around,” says Heather. “I have to say I have not encountered one negative person in my experiences there. Even the guys at the valet are so nice! All the way from the valet to the doctors everybody is so respectful. They’re just great.”
“You are at the right place!”
After twice getting pregnant with PCOS as a result of treatment with Dr. Carol Wheeler, Heather hopes her story raises awareness of the syndrome and the available treatments.
“A lot of people don’t even know what PCOS is,” Heather says with a laugh. “A lot of people assume that fertility treatment means IVF, but that’s not always the case.
“You don’t realize how many people are facing infertility until you are going through it yourself and you see how many people there are in the clinic. And everybody is there for the same thing. When you find out you are expecting, you just want to hug everybody in there and say, ‘You are at the right place!’”