PCOS and Infertility: What You Need to Know
How does PCOS relate to infertility? Here are some tips to help you get pregnant if diagnosed with PCOS.
Definition of PCOS
Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder that affects between 5 to 10 percent of all U.S. women (NICHD). The disorder produces a hormonal imbalance affecting fertility in such a way that women with PCOS do not ovulate (release an egg) regularly. Their ovulation is suppressed because their poly-cystic ovaries contain many small cysts that impede the natural process of egg maturation.
Symptoms of PCOS
Here are several symptoms that suggest you may have PCOS:
- Irregular menstruation cycles and irregular ovulations. Some women with PCOS have irregular ovulation / menstruation cycles and some of them do not ovulate or menstruate for long periods — even years — at a time.
- Excess hair (hirsutism). Women with PCOS also usually have an excess of the male hormones testosterone and androstenedione — which cause high testosterone in the blood. This condition often causes women to have excess hair and acne.
- Obesity. Studies report that as many as 80% of women diagnosed with PCOS are significantly overweight. (U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.) There is consistent research that suggests that there may be environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to the high rate of obesity in women with PCOS. Obesity exacerbates many of the reproductive and metabolic issues that contribute to infertility in women with PCOS.
- Infertility and Miscarriage. Infertility and miscarriage is very high in women who have PCOS. Most will require treatment to improve their chances of a successful pregnancy.
Fertility Treatment Approaches For Women With PCOS
For women under the age of 35 with PCOS, the chances are very good that they will be able to conceive and carry a baby to term, although it may require fertility treatment. Often, it just requires figuring out which fertility treatment will work the best for the individual. Women with PCOS usually need induction of ovulation to get pregnant. Induction of ovulation is the use of medication to stimulate development of one or more mature follicles in order to cause ovulation.
If obesity is an issue, the approach then will be to try weight loss and include other lifestyle changes before administering any fertility medications to see if the body will naturally start ovulating on its own. In one study of women with PCOS, the participants started having regular periods or became pregnant after losing at least 5 percent of their initial body weight (Clinical Endocrinology).
There are several treatments that are commonly used to attempt ovulation induction in women who are infertile due to PCOS. They include:
- Clomid (clomiphrene citrate)
- Clomid and metformin together
- Femara or letrozole
- Injectable gonadotropins
- Ovarian drilling
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Tips That Can Help Your Chances of Getting Pregnant With PCOS
There are some natural nutritional and lifestyle changes that can help women with PCOS normalize their hormones and increase their chances of getting pregnant. Here are some natural measures you might want to consider:
1. Achieve and maintain a normal weight
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the best diet for a woman with PCOS. That said, there is reliable research that caloric intake is important. However, diet is not a “one-size fits all” and should be tailored to the individual woman. Non-obese women with PCOS should eat a balanced, moderate diet. A woman with PCOS that is obese should consume a diet that is 40% carbohydrates or less, depending on what works for the individual. Learn more about PCOS and diet here.
2. Stay physically active
Regular exercise will help build lean mass which will speed up metabolism, burn calories and aid in weight loss. Exercise lowers blood pressure, raises HDL cholesterol and may improve insulin resistance. What’s really great about being physically active is that it will help you feel less depressed, reduce your stress level, and improve your sleep.
3. Restore your body using vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies
Women with PCOS may benefit from taking a pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin with a mineral balance high in antioxidants. Other micro-nutrients that help to offset insulin resistance include B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12, C, D, and E. There are many fertility teas on the market that may help support your reproductive system and some contain the following herbs:
- Red clover
- Dandelion root
- Nettle leaves
- Red raspberry leaf
- Rose hips
4. Reduce stress and create a balanced life
Many women in the U.S. experience a great deal of stress in their lives and women who are dealing with infertility are no exception. As a matter of fact, women who are experiencing infertility have higher than average rates of depression. Find what works for you to lower your stress and have a happy life.
5. Get support
Join an online or local support PCOS group. Some of the most widely known online PCOS support groups include:
Even though PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women, many women with PCOS have experienced successful pregnancies. By being open to medical interventions and making a commitment to natural nutritional and lifestyle remedies, many women with this form of hormonal imbalance improve their fertility and go on to have healthy pregnancies.
Have questions about PCOS and your fertility? Opionato offers confidential, affordable, and personalized advice and next steps in your fertility journey from trusted fertility experts from the privacy and comfort of your own home. Click here to try us for free.
Originally published at www.opionato.com.