A polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition wherein the ovaries don’t release an egg at the end of the menstrual cycle. It is linked to the hormonal imbalance in the body and has become a common condition affecting one in every five women. If you have PCOS, your ovaries may be slightly larger than normal in size and may have a large number of mostly harmless follicles. Most women face infertility due to PCOS, which can make getting pregnant difficult.
A] Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS symptoms may vary as some women may have milder ones and some severe symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods or delayed periods
- Hairfall or excess facial hair or body hair
- Skin problems include acne or oily skin
- Rapid weight gain or difficulty to lose weight
- Problems in conceiving a child
B] PCOS and Infertility
A woman’s body may produce higher levels of the male hormone androgens with PCOS. Normally, men have a higher level of these hormones as they are important for the development of male sexual and reproductive function and other characteristics.
In a woman’s body, androgens are usually converted into female hormones called estrogens. However, if there is an imbalance, it can affect the woman’s fertility preventing the release of mature eggs, so neither pregnancy nor ovulation can occur. The hormonal imbalance may also cause other problems in a woman’s body.
When the levels of androgens in the woman’s body increases, it interferes with the process of ovulation i.e. the development and release of eggs. If you suffer from PCOS, your body cannot release healthy eggs, so there is no chance of fertilization by the sperm which further reduces your chances of getting pregnant. In severe cases, the condition may cause missed periods, which is the first sign that indicates you may have PCOS. Most women do not find out they have polycystic ovary syndrome until they try to conceive.
Further Reading: Top 9 Causes of Infertility in Women
C] How to Get Pregnant With PCOS?
Some treatments may help women with PCOS get pregnant. Doctors usually prescribe medicines that may help regulate the hormones and period cycle. Some birth control pills contain the male version of hormones – estrogen and progestin. The pills can help regulate the hormones by reducing androgen production.
Most women, however, can’t tolerate a combination of pills, in which case, the doctor might recommend only the progestin pills. Some PCOS symptoms can be treated with lifestyle changes that include a healthy diet and exercise, while some may require IVF treatment to conceive. When you schedule a private appointment with a gynaecology specialist, they’ll provide you with necessary insights and treatment options based on your current health. Now, let’s take a look at some fertility treatments.
D] Fertility Treatments For PCOS
Currently, there is no cure for PCOS, but there are several fertility treatments available to increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it is important to manage your symptoms. You can treat mild symptoms with lifestyle changes while other severe symptoms may require a medication course. Treatments also depend on individual body type and if all fails, you can try advanced fertility treatments to conceive. Surgery is also an option if medicines don’t improve fertility.
1. Weight Loss
For most women who have PCOS, losing weight can be a challenge. This is because PCOS can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause insulin and sugar (glucose) to build up in the bloodstream. High levels of insulin tend to increase the production of androgens. Plus, women with PCOS are also likely to develop other problems related to weight gain such as high cholesterol & blood pressure, infertility, endometrial cancer, among others.
Losing 10% of your current weight may help you in regulating your menstrual cycle. Weight loss may also help balance the hormonal production in your body, thereby improving your chances of getting pregnant dramatically.
2. Diet Plan
Women with PCOS should eat healthy foods to reduce the risk of being overweight. Low carb diet is the best option for PCOS. You need to make sure your diet is rich in nutrients, vitamins, proteins and low in high sugar foods. Also, eliminate processed and junk foods from your diet.
Diet Tips for PCOS
- Eat a hearty breakfast that is full of protein and fiber. Have a smaller meal portion at dinner.
- Include complex carbs in your diet like whole grains and beans.
- When you eat sweets, try combining them with healthy fats or eat protein to slow down the sugar spike.
- Eat freshly cooked food and veggies. Include beans, lentils, oats, and barley in your diet plan.
- Some vitamins are essential for pregnancy such as Folic acid, B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D.
- Include anti-inflammatory food in your diet such as turmeric and tomatoes.
- Lean protein sources like chicken and fish make a good dietary option.
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks as they may affect the blood sugar level. Avoid white bread, muffins, and breakfast pastries.
As mentioned above, with the condition of PCOS, your body may make more of both -androgens and estrogen. Too little or too much of these hormones can cause problems in conception. Your doctor may recommend a single medicine or a combination of medications to treat this. Some common medications that are used include:
- Birth control pills – to level the estrogen and testosterone levels
- Metformin – to balance the insulin level in the body
- Clomid – to balance the estrogen level
- Fertility medicines to regulate ovulation
- Gonadotropins – made from a combination of hormones helps increase fertility
4. Fertility Procedures
If medications are not successful, you may need to undergo an invasive and complex fertility procedure called IVF (in vitro fertilization). The procedure uses injectable drugs to stimulate the ovaries so that they provide a good number of matured eggs. The eggs are retrieved in the egg retrieval process and fertilized with sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg or eggs (embryos) are then transferred to a uterus. It takes about three weeks for one full cycle of IVF and the success rate varies depending on various factors.
5. Balance Blood Sugar Level
At times PCOS also leads to high blood sugar levels, which may cause fertility issues. It mainly happens because PCOS changes how your body uses insulin. The hormone moves sugar into muscles and cells of the body, which makes your body sensitive to insulin.
Balancing the blood sugar level of the body may help you to get pregnant. It is important to stick to a healthy diet plan and exercise regime. Walk for about an hour or practice yoga to stay fit. Exercise and strength training can help your body utilise insulin in a better way. You can also have medicines to balance your blood sugar level.
6. Chances of Getting Pregnant
PCOS is one of the primary causes of infertility in women. It may be tough to get pregnant with PCOS, but with the right treatment, it is possible. If medications don’t help you to conceive, IVF treatment is the best option to get pregnant. Most women in the age group of 20 to 30 have a higher chance of getting pregnant with medications or IVF. For women, the chance of getting pregnant after 35 becomes lower, though it depends on body function too.
Further Reading: Foods That Can Increase Fertility in Women [Infographic]
Getting pregnant even if you have PCOS isn’t impossible, but you will need to manage your symptoms right. Long-term stress can also affect the hormonal level of the body, so with effective stress management, you can boost your chance of fertility.
Manage your weight and blood sugar levels. Have a healthy diet plan and exercise daily. Any form of exercise is good for managing your symptoms. Fertility medications will help you to conceive. If it does not work, you may need an IVF treatment. Regardless of the results, you need to stay positive and for any further details, you need to consult with a specialist.
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