For many women, the idea of getting pregnant with PCOS may seem nearly impossible because the condition does affect fertility. With proper diagnosis and treatment, many women with PCOS do go on to conceive and carry their babies to full-term.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. According to the American Pregnancy Association, five to ten percent of all child-bearing age women suffer from PCOS.
It’s a condition that affects a list of functions inside a woman’s body. Menstrual cycle, fertility, circulatory system, insulin production and appearance (weight gain and abnormal hair growth) can all bear the effects of PCOS. It also produces small fluid-cysts on the ovaries. While the signs of PCOS are widely known, the exact cause of PCOS remains a mystery.
How do polycystic ovaries affect pregnancy?
Getting pregnant with PCOS can be difficult for some women because of the way PCOS affects hormone levels. Women with PCOS have a higher level of male hormones than women who do not have PCOS. This causes them to have irregular menstrual cycles or sometimes no cycle at all. This can significantly impact fertility because it is difficult to tell when ovulation is occurring or if it is even happening at all.
Many women will ask about their chances of getting pregnant with PCOS. The PCOS success rate varies from patient to patient depending on what route women take to try to get pregnant, so it’s unfair to give an exact estimate because all cases are different. Some women require medication and sometimes IUI (intrauterine insemination) while others do not.
Does PCOS affect HCG levels?
HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is the hormone that indicates pregnancy. It’s the hormone that turns on the plus sign in those home pregnancy tests. Women who are pregnant will have a detectable HCG level while women who are not pregnant will not. Having PCOS should have no bearing on the HCG levels. If you have PCOS and are concerned about your HCG levels, ask your doctor.
Endometriosis and PCOS
Endometriosis is another condition that can affect fertility. It affects around ten percent of all women. Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of the endometrial lining. Unlike PCOS, endometriosis can be extremely painful. It is categorized by painful periods as well as having pain when going to the bathroom or when having sex. Women with endometriosis also have frequent pelvic pain when they’re not doing anything at all. As with PCOS, there is no reason why some women get endometriosis, and others do not. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you’re suffering from PCOS or endometriosis and decide on the appropriate course of treatment.
Ways to get pregnant with PCOS
Having PCOS does not mean you will never get pregnant. It just means that it can become more difficult. The main pregnancy roadblock for women with PCOS is trouble ovulating. A doctor can prescribe various medications to help regulate ovulation.
Metformin and Glucophage. These drugs are typically prescribed to diabetes patients but can be given to PCOS patients as well. They can help regulate the production of glucose and male hormones. By taking this medication, the abnormal hair growth often associated with PCOS should subside, and regular ovulation should resume.
Fertility medications. A doctor may also consult a patient about fertility medications that can also stimulate ovulation. There are a variety of medications that can be prescribed to help a woman release an egg. These medications along with intrauterine insemination or IVF (in vitro fertilization) can significantly increase a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. But, it should be noted that these procedures do increase the likelihood of multiple births.
Surgery. This is typically the road least chosen but is still an option for women with PCOS. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this laparoscopic procedure involves putting a small electric current on the ovary. This procedure gets rid of part of the ovary which can decrease the presence of the male hormone while increasing the chance of ovulation. This procedure does carry the risk of scar tissue forming on the ovaries. Your doctor will advise you if this is something that may help you conceive.
How to get pregnant naturally with PCOS
Some women with PCOS look for natural ways to boost ovulation and their chances of conceiving. As always, be sure to consult your doctor first to see if it’s the right option for you. Here’s a look at some things to consider:
Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are excellent ways to manage PCOS and try to regulate periods. By eating right and exercising regularly, the body learns to use insulin more efficiently. Women with PCOS typically have higher insulin levels which impair ovulation.
Home remedies and supplements
It’s believed vitamin B-complex can increase progesterone levels. There are also home remedies like so-called “fertility teas” that can help balance hormones. Before running out to the store to look for these items talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. Not all herbal remedies are right for everyone. It’s important to understand any potential side effects before putting anything new into your body, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant.
PCOS Fertility Diet
The food we choose to eat dramatically affects our insulin levels. For women with PCOS, this can make or break their chances of ovulation. That’s why choosing the right foods can help increase the likelihood of ovulation and thus fertility in women with PCOS. If you are trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant consider foods with a low glycemic index, meaning foods that break down slowly in the body and don’t cause insulin levels to rise and fall so sharply. Here are some low glycemic foods you may want to add to your diet:
- Beans & lentils
- Walnuts & Almonds
Foods that are high in protein such as fish, chicken, and lean meats are also excellent additions to a PCOS fertility diet. Foods that are high in sugar and starch should be avoided. These include:
- White potatoes
- White bread
To maintain proper insulin levels, it’s also recommended to try to eat five meals a day. This would be your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as two healthy snacks. One snack should be eaten mid-morning while the other should be eaten no later than one hour before bed. Your doctor can help you carve out a diet plan that works for you.
If you are trying to get pregnant with PCOS remember to keep a positive outlook and always consult your doctor about any concerns you may have along the way.