Living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and getting pregnant is a dual concern for many women of childbearing age. PCOS with its wide range of symptoms is the most common hormonal disturbance of premenopausal women and a leading cause of infertility. Life with PCOS can be complex without some medical guidance.
What is PCOS?
Living with PCOS and getting pregnant is challenging because your body doesn’t produce the hormones necessary for regular ovulation. Without these hormones, the egg inside the ovary does not fully mature. The follicle that holds the egg still grows and fills with fluid. However, there is no mature egg to rupture it, so it remains as a cyst. The cysts with PCOS produce higher than normal amounts of androgens (male sex hormones), which block ovulation. Because no mature egg is released, ovulation fails to occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. This results in an irregular or absent menstrual cycle.
If you have PCOS and getting pregnant is your ultimate dream, there are some treatments that may help you bring home a baby.
How can I conceive with PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal condition. In women who have it, it can affect your ability to have a child. It can also, make your periods stop or become hard to predict cause acne and so on. There are treatments for the symptoms, and if you want to get pregnant, that’s still possible, though you may need to try different methods.
Fertility treatments and medications
Fertility drugs may help symptoms of PCOS in an attempt to temporarily assist with ovulation. The traditional fertility agents Clomid, Serophene and various preparations of injectable gonadotropins create a “super”-physiologic situation where an ‘extra push’ is given for follicular development. One disadvantage with having PCOS and getting pregnant with fertility drugs is that these drugs tend to work in only one cycle. A developing follicle may take up to three cycles to grow and mature. This means the egg has gone through early growth stages in an abnormal hormonal environment, which may result in a poor quality egg.
Fertility drugs for PCOS are often taken in combination with metformin. Metformin, also known as Glucophage, helps to lower insulin levels.
IVF (In vitro fertilization (IVF))
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another great option for getting pregnant with PCOS. While IVF can be an expensive and time-consuming process, many women with PCOS have had great success with IVF, getting pregnant and bringing home healthy babies.
Your doctor may have talked to you about a minimally invasive surgery to induce ovulation. This type of laparoscopic surgery is referred to as “ovarian drilling” and involves puncturing the ovary with a small needle that carries an electric current. This procedure destroys a small portion of the ovary. Although ovarian drilling can help lower male hormone levels and induce ovulation, the effects of the procedure may only last for a few months. The procedure also carries the risk of developing scar tissue between the fallopian tubes and ovary and other problems that can hinder your ability to get pregnant.
Natural PCOS fertility aids
There are steps you can take to naturally bring about ovulation. By maintaining a healthy weight and eating fewer processed foods or foods without added sugar, you can improve your body’s use of insulin and balance your hormone levels. Some women report complete relief of PCOS symptoms after changing their diet and exercise habits. Weight loss can help to regulate your cycle, improve the frequency of ovulation, lower androgen levels and thereby improve your fertility.
Having PCOS and getting pregnant does increase the risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or premature delivery. Still, in general, women with PCOS do experience healthy pregnancies. Find out the most effective treatment options from our doctors, connect with them here.
Symptoms of PCOS
If you have any of the following symptoms of PCOS, make an appointment to get checked out;
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Inability to get pregnant or recurrent miscarriage
- High levels of androgen “male” hormones
- PMS and pelvic pain
- Ovarian cysts
- Acne and oily skin
- Balding or thinning hair
- Hirsutism: excessive hair growth in areas on the face, neck, chest, stomach, back, hands, feet
- Obesity or weight gain – especially around the waist,
- Insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
- Skin tags
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Diet and lifestyle recommendations
Since your condition may increase your risk of developing certain diseases, it is imperative to consider changing your diet and lifestyle. Hormonal imbalances and problems with metabolism are some of the primary outcomes of having PCOS. For this reason, you need to focus on weight management and insulin production and resistance. Following a particular diet that meets your nutritional needs – healthy weight and normal insulin levels – will help make you feel better.
Here are some food sources to consider including in your diet:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
Foods that can help reduce inflammation
- Olive oil
Foods that can lower high blood pressure
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
Limit or avoid eating refined carbohydrates like white bread, sugary beverages, and desserts, and processed foods as it may worsen insulin resistance and may cause inflammation. Be conscious of your daily physical movements to manage your insulin resistance and high blood pressure. Activities like meditation and yoga can be helpful in managing your stress levels.
Always consult your doctor and nutritionist to learn more about your medical condition and treatment options before making any significant changes to your diet and lifestyle.
- IntegraMed. Learn about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO or PCOS) from a leading specialist.
- American Pregnancy Association. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
- Webmd.com. What is PCOS? – Accessed on 23rd September 2018
- Womenshealth.gov. Frequently Asked Questions.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Patient Fact Sheet: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Patient Fact Sheet: Ovarian Drilling for Infertility.