What is PCOS, how does PCOS affect fertility, and how to improve your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS
One question that often comes up around infertility is how to get pregnant with PCOS. PCOS, which stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common cause of infertility. While PCOS can make pregnancy challenging, it is possible to get pregnant with PCOS. This article discusses the effect of PCOS on fertility and ways to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by hormonal imbalance that affects how the ovaries function. Some of the signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular or missed periods
- Extra hair growth or loss
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Insulin resistance (where your body doesn’t process insulin correctly)
- Development of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries
PCOS affects between 5-12% of people with ovaries; however, it can show up differently in each patient. Some people with PCOS have many of these symptoms, while others only have one or two. While there is currently no cure for PCOS, there are different lifestyle and medical treatments to manage symptoms.
PCOS and Fertility
PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in people with ovaries. In a normal menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg each month in a process called ovulation. In people with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interrupts ovulation, so the eggs don’t develop correctly or aren’t released at all. Irregular ovulation makes it difficult to become pregnant. However, it is still possible to get pregnant with PCOS. About 30% of people with PCOS can get pregnant without any treatment, so it’s important to use birth control if you aren’t trying to conceive. For the 70% of people with PCOS who have trouble getting pregnant, there are behavioral and medical approaches to increase chances of pregnancy.
While PCOS is a common cause of infertility for people with ovaries, there are many other possible reasons. The first step in any infertility journey is to get a comprehensive fertility evaluation, including semen analysis and an anatomy scan. This helps rule out any other potential causes, instead of simply assuming PCOS is the cause. If your fertility specialist determines that PCOS is the most likely reason, you can discuss the following lifestyle and medical treatment options.
Lifestyle Changes to Get Pregnant with PCOS
The good news is that moderate lifestyle changes can make a big difference in improving your chances at getting pregnant with PCOS. These include eating a low-calorie and nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and, for some patients, moderate weight loss.
PCOS can affect your body’s ability to process insulin, which can lead to irregular periods and risks of diabetes and heart disease. A healthy diet can significantly improve your body’s insulin resistance and improve chances of pregnancy. Studies recommend a diet with lots of fiber, lean proteins, and moderate carbs.
Many studies have shown that moderate exercise significantly improves ovulation in patients with PCOS. Regular physical activity helps balance hormones and make periods more consistent and easier to track. Tracking your periods can also help time intercourse with ovulation, when you are most fertile.
Many patients with PCOS are overweight or obese, and obesity can make some of the symptoms of PCOS more severe. Losing a modest amount of weight (even 5-10%) can significantly improve hormone balance and the chances of getting pregnant with PCOS.
Adopting a healthy diet and exercising regularly may lead to weight loss. However, it’s important to note that the benefits of healthy eating and exercise showed up even in patients who didn’t lose weight. So, if you’re working on lifestyle changes to get pregnant with PCOS, try not to focus too much on the number on the scale. Developing healthy habits overall can have immediate, positive effects.
Medical Treatments for PCOS and Fertility
If you are still having trouble getting pregnant after making lifestyle changes, there are several possible medical treatments. Your fertility specialist might recommend using medications such as clomiphene or letrozole to help boost ovulation. This process is called ovulation induction. Many people with PCOS-related infertility respond well to ovulation induction.
If other approaches don’t work, it is possible to get pregnant with PCOS through in vitro fertilization (IVF). This involves retrieving mature eggs from your ovaries, fertilizing them in a lab to make an embryo, and then placing the embryo into your uterus, where it hopefully implants and becomes a pregnancy.
If You’d Like to Get Pregnant with PCOS, We Can Help
Trying to conceive with PCOS can be challenging. But, it’s not impossible, and relatively minor changes can lead to major improvements in success rates. Our team specializes in PCOS and fertility and will guide you through everything you need to know. If you have PCOS and would like to know more about your fertility options, reach out to us today.