Husband Shares Recipes That Helped His Wife's Polycystic Ovary Syndrome While She Was Trying To Conceive

This couple gained a following for documenting meals and research about PCOS on Instagram. Now they are sharing their pregnancy journey through more creative recipes on TikTok.

Husband kisses wife's pregnant belly
Photo: Nicole Clarey

In December 2021, Rachael and Tom Sullivan found out they were pregnant with their first child, almost one year after Tom started posting about the foods he made to help his wife manage her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

In secrecy, Tom Sullivan had started an Instagram account titled @mealssheeats, to document meals he was cooking as a holistic way to treat his wife's, Rachael Sullivan, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS side effects can include irregular periods, infertility, and hormonal acne. The couple had been trying to get pregnant, and PCOS was playing a major role in their ability not to.

"Truthfully, I didn't want to give an insight into the world [of our lives]," Tom said. "The Instagram page was just to have one place where my recipes were. all at. Up until 'til then I would research Pinterest, I would have bookmarks on Safari, I'd have notes, I'd have other people's recipes saved on Instagram and they were all over the place. And with us just needing to be able to eat and rotate with the different phases I needed to make sure we could actually repeat these recipes and remember them."

The different phases Tom refers to are that of the menstrual cycle. The four phases of the menstrual cycle are menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal. Different kinds of foods are recommended throughout each of the phases to tailor to the work hormones are performing. For example, in the menstrual phase, soups and stews are highly recommended, as this is typically when the consumer is menstruating. Tom's most popular meal during this time is homemade miso soup.

"Great for hormonal balance during that time of the month, aka keep her happy," Tom captioned the first photo on the page, of miso soup.

"When I was diagnosed, I feel like there weren't any accounts with women with PCOS," Rachael said. "I felt like there were a lot of doctor accounts but no one going through a self journey. So I just felt like people could relate on a different level to what we were doing. Which was nice and it's cool to be a resource for [others] out there."

Once Rachael caught word of Tom's account, the couple was able to combine research and recipes and have a home base to store it all.

"When we got the diagnosis I feel like we both started researching," Tom said. "But she did a lot of the behind-the-scenes of what's harming her body. She did the elimination diet, she had the discipline to stick to removing caffeine, not a lot of people can do that cold turkey. I've been cooking for 12 or 13 years just as a hobby; it's just something I really enjoy doing. And I felt like, for me, that was part of the fun of the challenge was like 'okay, now we know these different foods that she should eat during different times, how can I make them taste good?.'"

Removing dairy and gluten food products from Rachael's diet was crucial to tackling her diagnosis of PCOS. This is common among those managing a PCOS diagnosis through dieting, as refined carbohydrates and foods with high saturation levels are not recommended. Removing one food category alone is difficult, however with the right amount of research and trial and error, the couple was able to find recipes and make foods that not only taste good, but are good for you as well.

Regular exercise, healthy foods and weight control are three important elements to regulate and practice when wanting to manage PCOS. While there is no cure for PCOS, there is also a pill regimen that can help to reduce symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic, a lifestyle change such as regular diet and exercise can help the overall effectiveness of the medicines you might be prescribed as part of a treatment plan.

"It would be, I'm craving, like mac' n' cheese, which is dairy and gluten heavy, right, two things that I'm avoiding for inflammation in my body," Rachael said. "And Tom was like 'alright, we'll find a way to solve this and make it taste amazing.' It's a lot of trial and error."

The couple would post their meals every other Sunday.

After that, a new TikTok series was born, one where the couple makes a snack or meal with a food item that correlates with the size of their unborn baby. In one video titled: "Our baby's growth brought to you by food," a fig pizza was used to commemorate week 11 of pregnancy, as the baby was the size of a fig. The couple has since made virgin pina coladas, banana sushi, apple nachos and avocado ice cream. Dairy-free, of course.

The couple didn't expect this new series to take off similarly to how their documentation of the Sunday Instagram meals did. It was an unexpected outcome of deciding what to have for dinner one night, and Rachael's love for figs.

"That was just so random, I downloaded a pregnancy app and they compare your baby every week to the size of a fruit or vegetable every week," Rachael said. "The first week I noticed that the baby was the size of a fig."

The couple consistently receives messages from other couples who are going through a similar experience, and find relief in the Sullivan's content. When their newborn arrives, Tom hopes to make baby food, potentially inspiring the next series for the pair.

"I feel like…we're not planners," Rachael said. "When the baby comes we'll happenstance across something and we'll just go with it."

There is even a lifestyle cookbook in the works for the couple, with an anticipated release date of late December 2022 or early January 2023. The cookbook will include personal stories relating to their PCOS journey as well as their favorite recipes.

But for now, the couple will continue to help raise awareness of PCOS.

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