Lea Michele Explains What Her ‘Very Intense, Very Scary’ Pregnancy Was Really Like
Lea Michele gave birth to a healthy baby boy this past August, but she endured a difficult pregnancy before that. “I had a very, very intense, very scary pregnancy,” the actor said this week on an episode of Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt’s Instagram Live series, Before, During & After. “I really withheld a lot of my experience from the people around me.” Now she is sharing new details about the challenges she faced.
Michele was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, at age 30. She received her diagnosis after she went off of birth control for the first time in 15 years and experienced issues such as irregular periods, severe acne, and weight gain (all symptoms of PCOS, according to the Mayo Clinic). Michele managed her condition and tried to prepare her body for pregnancy through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. She also underwent medical procedures to remove polyps, scar tissue, and cysts on her ovaries.
But Michele had trouble getting pregnant, as is the case for many people with PCOS, per the Office on Women’s Health. “Our process of conceiving was really complicated,” Michele said, explaining that having an irregular cycle made it hard to know when she was fertile. “Emotionally, it just started to build and build.”
Michele finally became pregnant after she and her husband, Zandy Reich, actually decided to stop trying for a while. Early on in the pregnancy, in December 2019, Michele started bleeding heavily right before a live performance in New York City, which became a recurring issue throughout her first trimester. Michele started taking a high dose of progesterone to help her body sustain the pregnancy and stayed on bed rest.
At some points during the pregnancy, Michele said, the bleeding was so bad that she rushed to the hospital, and she was constantly afraid she was going to lose her pregnancy. Heavy bleeding during the first trimester can indicate a miscarriage, and people with PCOS have a higher risk for pregnancy complications (including miscarriage), the Office on Women’s Health explains. “Probably every other day, we were certain that this time was definitely it,” Michele recalled. “It was just horrible. It was absolutely, absolutely horrible…. I thought it was the most scared I would ever be in my life—until things got even more complicated.”
At Michele’s 20-week appointment in March 2020, right after much of the country went into lockdown, a detailed anatomy scan of the fetus revealed “we had a lot of potential red flag markers,” Michele said. “We were all really, really afraid.” When she announced her pregnancy in May, Michele “still was uncertain if the pregnancy was going to last,” she told Schwarzenegger Pratt. “I just woke up and I was like, ‘I just want to be a mom right now. I want this time.’ And it was horrible. It was the lowest I’ve been in my entire life.”
Finally, about two months before giving birth, Michele and her husband got the news that their baby was going to be healthy, which allowed them to relax a little. In August, Michele gave birth to her son, Ever Leo, via C-section (people with PCOS are more likely to require a C-section, per the Office on Women’s Health).
While the entire experience was incredibly hard on Michele mentally and physically, she did learn she is stronger than she thought she was. “I didn’t know [that strength] existed within me,” Michele said. And she has some advice for anyone going through something similar: “I do regret not leaning on more people. That was really isolating,” Michele said. “I would say to lean on those around you as much as you can.”
- How to Deal If Being Single Has You Worried About ‘Biological Clocks’ and Timelines
- How Years of Infertility Prepared Me for Pregnancy During the Coronavirus Crisis
- Lauren Burnham Says the ‘Darkness’ of Her Past Miscarriage Is Affecting Her Current Pregnancy