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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Louise

'My Life On Pause': Coming To Terms With A POI Diagnosis

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

A junior doctor in London has written a book on her experience with POI and early menopause "so that no women feels worthless or broken because she can't bear a child."

'My Life On Pause' is a 76-page book which details Siobhan O'Sullivan's journey with POI in intimate diary-form. O'Sullivan was diagnosed with POI at age 31 and struggled to come to terms with the full meaning of the condition. “Imagine knowing you can’t give birth to a child before you’ve even started trying, before you’ve even met the person you might decide to have that child with. It can be a very lonely and isolating, and I think it affects more women than we know", she writes.

O'Sullivan started writing the book when she was faced with 10 days isolation after contracting Covid. The time alone made her finally confront her diagnosis. "I tried to explore my thoughts and I found that writing things down helped me to understand", she said. "I realised that part of my struggle had been that I didn't feel I could open up to anyone as no one understood how I was feeling. The literature that was out there didn't match up to my own personal journey and my own fears. So I decided to write some of these thoughts in a blog."

A few months later, O'Sullivan had written a full book detailing her journey.

POI or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency is when your ovaries stop producing normal amounts of oestrogen and thus stop working properly under the age of 40 which then causes an early menopause. POI affects 1 in 100 under the age of 40, 1 in 1000 under the age of 10 and 1 in 10,000 under the age of 20.

'My Life On Pause' is a raw and emotional account of POI, from the devastating news: “I’m really sorry but unfortunately the results show you have no eggs left” to the crumbly bones, hot flushes and even vaginal dryness of going through the menopause in your thirties. It's a detailed-orientated book which seeks to normalise her experience to a mainstream audience.

O'Sullivan calls writing the book "a self therapy" and found liberation in telling her story. "I had to reagin control of the situation and confront my reality", she said. "So I decided to put this out into the world. I decided to be be open about my diagnosis because I was sick of feeling ashamed and broken. If I continued to hide this then I was reinforcing that this was something that should be hidden and that was a vicious circle."

"The moment I decided to share my story it felt like a big weight had been lifted. I no longer had to worry about "when to tell people" because it was no longer a "secret" that had to be told. I used to dread the conversation that inevitably comes up as a women in your 30's "do you want children" "when are you going to think about children". Now I feel confident and justified in my response."

Readers sharing their love for the book on Instagram - @mlop_poi

However, for O'Sullivan the book is not just about personal liberation. She hopes the detailed openness of the book will be a comfort to women experiencing the same condition. "I didn't feel like there was much support out there for me when I was diagnosed", she said. "I don't want anyone else to go through that alone. If there is even one women out there who does feel like I did in any way, has shared some of my fears, and if by reading this book she can feel a little less alone at such a disruptive and life changing time, then it was worth writing it for that alone."

Furthermore, throughout the book scientific and medical chapters are added to explain treatments, symptoms and conditions. It’s not just a book about experiencing POI it’s also a book which seeks to education wider society on POI. "We need to raise an awareness so that people who are diagnosed or who are struggling can have access to the support they deserve. We need to raise an awareness so that the stigma that surrounds infertility in women can be removed and so that people do not overlook these women who may be struggling with fertility", O'Sullivan explained.

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