PCOS and Fertility
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is one of the most prominent causes of infertility for women experiencing problems getting pregnant.
Up to ten percent of women who are of childbearing age may have PCOS without even knowing it, and of these women, fewer than 25 per cent will ever be accurately diagnosed with PCOS.
Many times the only reason a woman will find out that she has PCOS is if she is having difficulty conceiving.
Studies show that PCOS is adversely affected by lifestyle, diet, genes, and some environmental factors. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to serious health problems.
As well, untreated PCOS can start a vicious cycle that will only exacerbate your inability to conceive. Without making significant lifestyle changes women may start to exhibit more of the symptoms of PCOS.
The unhealthier the female body is, the less able the reproductive system will be able to function, and this can significantly decrease your chances of conceiving naturally.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a medical disorder that affects the hormone levels in your body. It also affects your menstrual cycle and therefore has a direct effect on your fertility.
Women with PCOS often have high levels of androgens, male hormones. These androgens are another factor that affects both menstrual and ovulation cycles that are vital to normal fertility.
Some of the most common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular and infrequent menstrual periods.
- Cysts on the ovaries.
- Thin hair.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Mood swings.
- One or multiple cysts on the ovaries.
- Hair growth on the chest, back, or face.
- Weight gain and obesity.
- Mild to severe acne.
- Pelvic pain.
- Moderate to severe PMS symptoms.
- Type II Diabetes.
- High insulin levels.
- Recurrent miscarriages.
There is no standard test to diagnose PCOS. Diagnosis is done by eliminating other conditions such as tumors on the ovaries, problems with the pituitary and adrenal glands, and thyroid disease.
If your doctor suspects that you have PCOS, you’ll be given not only a pelvic exam but also blood tests and a vaginal ultrasound.
The important thing when it comes to infertility problems is eliminating those factors which are a symptom and not a cause.
How PCOS Leads to Infertility
PCOS directly affects infertility because it causes changes to your ovulation cycle and creates an imbalance in the body’s hormone levels. Cysts located on the ovaries will prevent the normal function of your ovaries.
By dealing with the symptoms of PCOS, you increase your chances of becoming pregnant; however, women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome have a much higher rate of miscarriage than other women.
Another reason why PCOS affects fertility is elevated glucose and insulin levels. Both can interfere with the fertilization, implantation, and development of the embryo.
As well, unstable insulin levels can lead to poor egg quality and this can make it more difficult for you to conceive. A huge risk factor of PCOS is the development of Type II Diabetes.
For this reason alone, women who are diagnosed with PCOS should do what they can to modify their lifestyle to one that focuses on optimum health.
Treating PCOS to Improve Your Fertility
There is no cure for PCOS so the aim when it comes to improving your fertility is to treat the symptoms. Stabilizing your hormone levels is important when it comes to treatment as ovulation is dependent on these hormones.
Your doctor may put you on an ovulation drug such as Clomid to boost your ovulation cycle. Other than hormone therapy, there are other methods that you should consider in order to manage PCOS symptoms and increase your chances of becoming pregnant naturally.
- Weight loss: Losing weight can often help to improve any hormone imbalance in your body and regulate your menstrual cycle.
- Exercise: Adding more exercise to your daily life can promote weight loss and improve any insulin imbalance.
- Eat a PCOS diet: Eating a high protein/low carbohydrate diet can improve your insulin resistance and help you lose weight. Focus on eating low glycemic foods such as vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber foods, and foods that are unprocessed. Make sure that you eat five small meals a day.
- Take supplements: Boost your intake of supplements including both vitamins and minerals. This can be as simple as adding taking a daily multi-vitamin.
Changing your lifestyle can have a positive effect on your overall health and help you manage PCOS symptoms that are leading to your fertility problems.
Once your menstrual cycle becomes more regular you might want to consider buying an ovulation predictor kit. By predicting when you’re ovulating you can increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
If you fail to respond to treatment for the symptoms of PCOS your doctor may recommend a laparoscopy to rule out other problems of your infertility such as blocked or scarred fallopian tubes.
PCOS and Pregnancy
While it may be difficult for women with PCOS to get pregnant the first time, research shows that many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome have an easier time getting pregnant after their first pregnancy.
As well, after a first pregnancy, many women find that their menstrual and ovulation cycles are much more normal.