PCOS and Conceiving
If you have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you are not alone — around five million U.S. women of childbearing age suffer from this condition. For women who have PCOS and want a baby, suffering from this disorder can be even more troubling. There might be no magic cure for PCOS, but a range of treatments are available and many women with PCOS have gone on to conceive and deliver healthy babies. Share with your doctor any symptoms you might have so they can prescribe the right treatment for you. Try to relax and stay positive — stress can be a cause of infertility, too.
How PCOS Affects Conception
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, your body is producing an excessive amount of male hormones (testosterone). This can be due to high insulin levels and, in some women, the presence of a luteinizing hormone, which stimulates ovulation but also reacts with insulin to make more testosterone.
A disproportionate amount of male hormones will make ovulation irregular and even hinder it. In some cases, polycystic ovaries also tend to have more cysts than healthy ovaries, these cysts are harmless per se, but they do impede egg production.
Getting Pregnant with PCOS
If you are diagnosed with PCOS and are also overweight, a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise might foster ovulation, while reducing your risk of diabetes. Other tips and medical treatment options for getting pregnant when suffering from PCOS include:
- Monitoring your ovulation. This can be done by taking your basal body temperature and plotting it on a chart or more simply by using an ovulation kit. Remember that even for healthy women there is a small window for conception, typically four days surrounding ovulation.
- If ovulation occurs but is irregular, consider intrauterine insemination (IUI), a medical procedure that involves placing your partner’s sperm into your uterus. This can help the sperm reach the egg, thus increasing your chance of conceiving.
- Ask your doctor about hormone treatment with the contraceptive pill or progestogen-only pill to induce regular periods. This will also lower your risk of cancer of the endometrium, if you do not have menstrual periods.
- A diabetes drug called metformin, which increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, thus inducing regular ovulation. However this drug is still under review by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Surgery — laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) is a minor surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. LOD corrects hormone imbalance and restores the normal function of your ovaries. Your doctor may advise you to go for this procedure if fertility treatments fail and to avoid the side effects of gonadotropins. Gonadotropins might be effective but have side effects including a higher risk of a multiple pregnancy and depression, abdominal pain and even allergic reactions.
If you have PCOS and want a baby there is no reason to give up hope. Simply managing stress, eating a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates and exercising can help in many cases. Discuss the many other treatment options available with your doctor.