PCOS & Your Fertility: Everything You Need to Know
PCOS polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects a woman's hormone levels. Women with this condition produce too many male hormones.. This hormone imbalance causes them to irregular ovulation and menstrual periods which makes it harder for them to get pregnant.
Many young girls have dreams of having families of their own. They ask their moms about pregnancy and birth, and what to expect. They are curious because one day they hope to become a mom. It would never occur to a young girl, even after reaching puberty that pregnancy is not always easy to achieve. They assume that if a woman wants to become a mom, she will become a mom.
In fact, even many older aspiring moms who are talking about wedding plans with their fiancees assume that pregnancy would be simple to achieve. It often does not occur that they and their partners would be part of the 1 in 8 couples that struggle from infertility. However, if a woman has very irregular cycles, facial hair, thinning hair, adult acne, and struggles with obesity - she may realize that she could have problems with getting pregnant. Why would that be? She may have polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.
What Is PCOS And How Does It Affect Fertility?
PCOS is a condition in women that causes hormone imbalances. It has been believed that the condition is a result of women producing too many male hormones. Both men and women produce androgens which have been believed to be only a male hormone. The truth is that men produce a lot more androgens than women. The androgens that women produce are converted into estrogen which is one of the critical female hormones. However, women with PCOS are not able to convert the androgens into estrogen properly.
Therefore, they end up with higher levels of androgens which is the key cause for higher levels of the hormone in their bodies. This is why they often struggle with irregular ovulation and periods, acne, thinning hair, facial hair, and obesity. PCOS is one of the common causes of female fertility.
Unfortunately, there is no one clear test to determine whether a woman has the condition. It can be diagnosed based on the symptoms alone.
There are levels of severity of the condition. There are plenty of women that are mildly affected that don't suffer from terribly irregular cycles. They just may have signs of thinning hair and some acne. There are other women who are severely affected by the condition that they have all of the characteristics. They may not ovulate at all, or only get periods once or twice a year. Some even have hair on their fingers, toes, and chest.
Other symptoms of PCOS are cysts on ovaries, pelvic pain, headaches, depression and anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Many women that have the condition also have high insulin levels as their insulin does not respond to the glucose in the body. This is referred to as insulin resistance. Therefore, high insulin and high glucose levels in the body can increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That also can have a negative impact on ovulation, fertility, and pregnancy.
Can Women That Have PCOS Get Pregnant?
The short answer to this question is, yes. However, oftentimes women that are mildly affected by the condition may have an easier time conceiving than their counterparts that are severely affected. The bottom line is that women that have the condition regardless of the severity of how they are impacted will need to make some lifestyle changes. Some that are highly impacted by PCOS may likely need fertility intervention.
What Steps Can A Woman With PCOS Take In Order To Conceive?
There are several steps that aspiring moms that have PCOS can take in order to increase their chances of getting pregnant. The first step that they all need to make (which includes aspiring moms that don't have PCOS) is to make sure that they are at an optimal weight.
If they are at an optimal weight or are very close to it, this will not only help keep their hormones in balance. It will also help reduce the risks of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes due to the fact that they already may have higher levels of insulin and glucose in their bodies.
The best way to fix that is for them to make an appointment with a dietician (even if they are not overweight). They will need to know how many calories they should consume and to stick to a fertility-friendly diet. This means limiting the sugar and increasing essential nutrients such as:
● Folate from whole-grains, leafy greens, nuts, eggs, lentils
● B vitamins from protein sources such as poultry, lean beef, eggs, legumes, and beans
● Vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers
● Beta carotene from carrots, bell peppers, yams
● Essential fatty acids from salmon, seeds, eggs, avocado, nuts, olive oil
● Antioxidants for repairing tissues from dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) and berries
Those essential nutrients will help with balancing hormones and will properly nourish their bodies. Getting a brisk walk for a half-hour a day is optimal as well for weight loss and keeping the body active. Additionally, taking up yoga and meditation is essential for them to manage their stress levels. High stress can cause a build-up of cortisol. That can increase insulin levels which is why it is important that they keep their levels down.