by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
- How does PCOS influence my fertility?
- If I have PCOS, what will increase my chances of getting pregnant?
“Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?” We at Women to Women, hear this question all the time from women who have just learned they have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I am happy to say that the answer is YES! It may take some medical interventions but the answer is usually yes. Even though PCOS is the most common type of female endocrine (hormone) disorder and one of the leading causes of female infertility, there is certainly hope for women with PCOS. The interesting part to this is that often times it is an easy intervention. At Women to Women, we have seen many women with this form of hormonal imbalance improve their fertility — and go on to experience a healthy pregnancy! So let’s look at some of the most common questions and concerns we hear about the effects of PCOS on fertility, and see how a more natural approach like ours can help in your PCOS and fertility journey.
How does PCOS influence my fertility?
When you have PCOS, it changes the hormonal pathways in your body that produce eggs and prepare the uterus for pregnancy. The three most important reasons why becoming pregnant, or staying pregnant may be more challenging for women with PCOS are:
- Women with PCOS often do not ovulate.
- Women with PCOS tend to have irregular periods rather than “normal” predictable monthly cycles.
- When and if an egg is released, the endometrium (lining of the uterus) may not be sufficiently prepared to sustain pregnancy.
You can learn more about the causes of PCOS in our articles about the causes and symptoms of PCOS. There is good news though— those complicated hormonal imbalances can often be changed to increase your chances of conception.
If I have PCOS, how can I increase my chances of getting pregnant naturally?
This is the question we hear most often. Now there are a number of treatment options out there — including both conventional and natural measures that can help to normalize your hormones and increase your chances for a healthy pregnancy. At Women to Women, we have found that nutritional and lifestyle changes are almost universally necessary for women with PCOS. Our approach includes the following natural measures:
- Follow a low-glycemic load diet. Years of experience has taught us that this step is vital to limit insulin resistance, balance sex hormones, and increase fertility. What we mean by “low-glycemic load,” is to limit carb intake to 16 grams of carbs per meal, and 7 grams per snack. That is the best way to start. For those of you that are more active a slightly higher carb intake may be necessary. In order to keep the glycemic load down, pair your carbohydrates with fiber, protein, and/or healthy fats. We recommend eliminating all high-fructose syrups, sugar, white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and other highly processed, refined sugars and starches.
Carefully limiting refined carbohydrates is crucial to fertility because it reduces your insulin resistance, decreases androgens, and results in more regular ovulation and menses. This is basically what the drug metformin accomplishes, too — the difference is that our approach does this naturally. We so often see our patients come back after following this protocol having regular cycles for the first time in their lives. For more information, read our article, “Understanding Carbohydrates – Let’s Take Away The Confusion.”