Odds are, you know at least one woman around you who has PCOS. It is a common condition affecting women of reproductive age, with prevalence rates approximated to be around 1.4 million in Canada alone. Upon diagnosis, most women’s first question is ‘how will this impact my fertility’? Unfortunately, there is no short answer, but the general conscience is that while PCOS is unlikely to cause infertility, and can certainly make it harder to conceive, and increases the risks of secondary complications. However, the good news is there are numerous ways to improve PCOS to ultimately assist in a woman’s chances of conception and lead to a healthy pregnancy if she has PCOS. Let’s learn more about PCOS and how to improve your chances of getting pregnant with it.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal condition where the ovaries produce an elevated amount of androgen hormone or male sex hormone. Androgens are naturally present in females in small amounts. However, increased levels can lead to failed or delayed ovulation, irregular periods, and other symptoms such as darkened hair growth and acne. PCOS can result in delayed ovulation, thus causing irregular or no periods for weeks to months. Ovulation is part of the menstrual cycle where follicles in the ovaries release a mature egg, and its timing is arguably one of the most important variables to successfully conceive since the released egg is only viable to be fertilized for approximately 24 hours. In many patients with PCOS, the egg releases at erratic points in the cycle, or sometimes does not release at all, therefore remaining inside the ovaries in the form of a cyst (thus polycystic ovary syndrome). Irregular timing, failed ovulation, or poor quality ovulation all present challenges when trying to fertilize, thus making it more challenging for patients with PCOS to conceive.
Symptoms of PCOS Women of any age after puberty, from 15 to 44 years, can develop PCOS. Let us look at the symptoms of it:
Irregular, absent periods
Excessive hair fall
Prolonged bleeding during periods
Causes Of PCOS The true causes behind PCOS are not yet discovered. However, the literature suggests some factors that are linked to PCOS as follows: 1 - Genetics If someone in your family, such as your mother or relative, has PCOS, you are more likely to develop it correlates to genetics. 2 - Excessive Androgen The female body produces androgens or ‘male patterned hormones’ in certain amounts. However, the higher the androgenic hormones the higher the risk of PCOS. 3 - Overweight Or Obesity Women with obesity and poor BMI are at greater risk of having PCOS due to the impacts of insulin. The vice-versa is also true; women with PCOS tend to gain weight easier. An optimal diet and exercise routine can assist in regulating ovulation if are planning a baby. 4 - Higher Levels Of Insulin As previously mentioned, women with PCOS face trouble with increased insulin levels due to failed insulin uptake. Insulin is known to regulate ovarian function, so irregular levels cause unpunctual ovulation. How To Get Pregnant With PCOS? PCOS can affect fertility and conception in women, however, it often does not mean you cannot get pregnant. Assist the regulation and quality of your ovulation by keeping the following things in check: 1 - Do your best to maintain a healthy weight I list this with a grain of salt, as I see firsthand in practice how hard some PCOS patients struggle to maintain or lose weight despite doing all the right things. This is where further investigation into metabolic function and other exocrine organs is necessary. However, for those with PCOS who do not maintain and balanced diet and exercise routine, doing so can largely improve your chances of pregnancy, and secondary complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, etc. 2 - Track Your Ovulation To stay aware of your fertile days, track your periods and ovulation with the help of tracking apps, or more accurately, using Luteinizing hormone (LH) strips. Remember, the accuracy of these apps isn’t 100% (it's based on statistical averages) and was far from ‘average’, so using LH strips, temperature monitoring, and cervical mucous monitoring can produce significantly more accurate results. 3 - Blood Sugar Levels Make sure to get your blood sugar levels checked by a doctor. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial for pregnancy, both prior to conception and during. 4 - Nutraceuticals Speak to your naturopathic Doctor in Toronto about supplements that can help with fertility and regulating your cycle. There are endless studies that now show many nutraceutical products such as inositol, NAC, CoQ10, folic acid, and vitamin D, amongst many others can help improve insulin sensitivity, regulate ovulation, and improve the health of the uterine lining, which is great for all women with PCOS, despite whether or not they’re trying to conceive. There are also numerous supplements that are NOT safe during pregnancy, so ensure to speak to your Naturopath before taking any of the following to confirm the safety of use and proper clinical dosages. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS to date, and it is often not self-limiting (goes away on its own). But you can manage the symptoms with a number of the methods we just mentioned. Eat a balanced diet that is low in refined carbs but high in complex carbs. Keep your weight healthy and consult a practitioner for prescribed medications and professional advice. Lastly, While PCOS is a common condition, and many women will move in and out of symptomatic states throughout their life, it isn’t one that you have to continue to suffer from. For more information about PCOS, or if you need to advise on improving your fertility, please feel free to contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 to arrange a consultation today.