Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS as it is commonly called is a fairly common endocrine condition that affects between 5-10% of all menstruating women. Every month, at the time of menstruation, ovulation occurs – each ovary releases an egg (ovum) into the uterus (womb). Women with PCOS might fail to ovulate or ovulate infrequently, which means they have irregular or absent periods thus finding it difficult to get pregnant.
PCOS is caused by abnormal hormone levels. Women with PCOS have higher levels of testosterone, a male hormone that should ideally be produced in small amounts. They also have high levels of Luteinising Hormone (LH). This hormone stimulates ovulation but when produced in high amounts can affect the ovaries. PCOS is also thought to be genetic and could run in families.
Some researchers think that high levels of insulin could be at the root of the condition. If you’re overweight, your chances of developing PCOS are greater.
Also Read: How Do Fibroids Affect Pregnancy And Fertility
Symptoms of PCOS:
It is possible for girls to have irregular periods when they first start menstruating, but these regularise in a few months. If they continue to experience two or more of the below symptoms it is advisable to seek the doctors advice.
- Irregular periods or failure to get periods
- Excessive hair growth, especially on face and sometimes on the chest or back.
- Weight gain
- Thinning of hair or male pattern baldness which is loss of hair on the crown of the head.
- Acne or excessively oily skin
- Pelvic pain can occur in some cases
Sometimes young women may be unaware they have PCOS since the severity varies from person to person. PCOS may only be detected later when the female has difficulty in conception or fails to get pregnant.
Diagnosis for PCOS can be done in the following ways by the doctor:
- Blood tests to measure if high levels of Male hormones like testosterone are present.
- Scans to see if the ovaries are Polycystic.
Tips to get pregnant with PCOS
Many times PCOS goes unnoticed since symptoms like weight gain and acne are associated with puberty. Women only find out they have PCOS when they’re trying to get pregnant and are unsuccessful since PCOS is one of the most common causes of difficulty in conception. The right treatment and lifestyle changes can effectively manage the condition and make pregnancy possible:
- Weight Management: Many women with PCOS struggle with weight gain and sometimes obesity too. This is because PCOS interferes with the processing of insulin which can lead to weight gain. Women with PCOS have trouble ovulating and studies have indicated that losing weight can regularise ovulation.
Losing weight can be very hard for women with PCOS due to insulin resistance. A doctor will recommend medication to manage your insulin levels which in turn will make weight loss easier.
- Manage your diet: A healthy diet is key to managing insulin levels which in turn will help manage weight. Being a healthy weight helps regularise the menstrual cycle. Ensure your diet is rich in a wide variety of nutrients, sufficient proteins, low-sugar and healthy fats (ghee, olive oil, nuts). Eat at least 1-2 servings of fresh, seasonal fruit, 4-5 servings of vegetables and a variety of complex carbs every day. Manage your sugar cravings by eating fresh fruit instead of sweets.
- Exercise: Exercise and weight management are directly related. Once your weight is in the healthy range, periods become regular and the incidence of PCOS reduces. In one study, a combination of regular brisk walking and eating a healthier diet improved menstrual cycle regularity by 50 percent.
- Medication*: A majority of PCOS related issues are successfully treated with the help of medication.
- Clomifene is usually the first treatment recommended. It encourages the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation).
- Metformin, a type 2 diabetes medicine can be given to women with PCOS to lower insulin and blood sugar levels. It also stimulates ovulation, encourages regular periods and lowers the risk of miscarriage. Metformin is not specifically used to treat PCOS but since many with PCOS have insulin resistance, treating that can manage PCOS.
- For women whom oral medication is not working, gonadotrophins may be given by injections. However, these may overstimulate the ovaries and lead to multiple pregnancies.
* Kindly note: these are generic medication names only and should not be taken without prior consultation with the doctor.
Also Read: Common Infections During Pregnancy And How To Avoid Them
- Surgery: A minor surgery called Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling (LOD) could be a treatment option for fertility problems associated with PCOS that do not respond to medication. The doctor makes a small cut in the lower abdomen and passes a long, thin microscope called a laparoscope to treat the ovaries surgically using heat or a laser. The tissue producing male hormones is destroyed. LOD has been found to lower levels of male hormone and raise levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), thus correcting hormone imbalance and restoring normal function of ovaries.
- IVF or IVM: In the rare cases when medication and LOD does not work, doctors may recommend IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) or IVM (In Vitro Maturation)
- IVF: Fertility drugs are injected to stimulate the ovaries so that they produce many mature eggs. The mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilised with the sperm in Petri dishes. A few of the fertilised eggs are transferred to the uterus. A pregnancy test 2 weeks later confirms if the IVF was a success or not.
- IVM: In IVM, instead of giving high doses of fertility drugs to force ovaries to mature many eggs, IVM involves no fertility drugs or very low doses of the drugs. In IVM, immature eggs are retrieved by the doctor, which are then matured in the lab, fertilised and transferred back into the uterus.Before opting for either procedure, it is important to fully understand the risks, costs and success rates from a well-qualified doctor and then go ahead with the chosen procedure.
It is not one single factor that will help you conceive. If the doctor has recommended fertility treatments in helping you conceive, making lifestyle changes will increase the success of the fertility treatment and your chances of conception.
To Read More: 7 Tips For Getting Pregnant With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Want to share your mommy experience with other moms through words or images? Become a part of the Moms United community. Click here and we will get in touch with you