PCOS and Your Fertility
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) the first noticeable symptom may have been difficulty conceiving. While it is not impossible to have a baby if you have PCOS, careful management of your condition is necessary to give you the best chances. This is because of the multiple ways that PCOS affects your fertility and what you can do to combat it.
How does PCOS affect fertility?
PCOS affects your fertility in a number of ways. Together, these make PCOS the most common reason that a woman has trouble conceiving. A few of the factors at play include the following:
Normally, a woman develops a mature follicle (which is a cystic structure) on her ovary, which releases an egg roughly every 28 days. This egg travels into the fallopian tube where it may be fertilized. Fourteen days after ovulation, a woman who has not become pregnant will have her period.
Women who have PCOS typically have ovaries that contain many small cysts. Each of these contains immature eggs.
Because of how these cysts are formed, they can result in eggs not maturing properly so that they are released each month. If there is no mature egg released, there is no chance of conception.
It is believed that PCOS is an inflammatory disorder. This inflammation can affect the reproductive system, making it less likely that you will be able to conceive. By addressing inflammation, we can help reduce symptoms.
PCOS is associated with a high level of insulin resistance. This insulin resistance can make it harder to stay at a weight that is conducive to conception and healthy pregnancy. It also can exacerbate PCOS symptoms, making it harder to maintain normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.
Both men and women produce hormones known as androgens. Men typically have much higher levels of these hormones than women do. In women with PCOS, however, the levels of these hormones are typically higher. As a result, hormone levels may interfere with your ability to conceive by preventing ovulation.
Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?
Untreated PCOS is one of the most common reasons for infertility. Women who have PCOS and are not under a treatment plan to manage their condition may have missing periods because they do not ovulate.
The good news is that, for most women, treatments can help restore normal ovulation and make it possible to conceive.
PCOS Fertility Treatment Options
There are a number of different treatments available and philosophies behind PCOS care. Some care takes a medical approach while others offer a more holistic and comprehensive solution to infertility.
The Conventional Approach
The conventional approach involves medicating to restore ovulation and increase the chances of conceiving.
In some cases, doctors may try prescribing hormonal birth control pills for anywhere from two weeks to two months. This may “reset” your system and put you on a regular menstrual cycle.
In others, medications are used specifically to trigger ovulation. Medication options include:
- Letrozole. This is a medication developed for the treatment of breast cancer. Researchers have learned that it stimulates the ovaries and can cause ovulation.
- Clomiphene. This is an anti-estrogen medication taken at the beginning of your cycle to stimulate ovulation.
- Metformin. This diabetes drug is often used for the treatment of PCOS.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FHS). Administered as a shot, this is another medication tried when others are ineffective.
Instead of simply medicating the problem, we like to look at the underlying causes of PCOS-related fertility. By addressing factors that can relieve PCOS symptoms, we can often restore fertility and bring you back to a normal hormonal balance. Therapies that can be effective include:
- Healthy and effective weight loss. PCOS can make it harder to lose weight. Our approach allows you to make the changes necessary to get down to a healthy weight, which can often reduce PCOS symptoms on its own.
- Dietary changes. We work with you to eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet, which can ease PCOS symptoms.
- Lifestyle changes. Stress and how you handle it have serious effects on your health. We work with you to help maintain balance.
- Hormone therapy. When needed, we will use bio-identical hormones to balance abnormalities and to optimize your treatment. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a method that uses specially designed hormone supplements to replace specific hormones that become either depleted or imbalanced for a variety of reasons. This is most often used to alleviate the struggle of hormone depletion or imbalance. The most commonly simulated hormones are estrogen, testosterone, adrenal hormones, and progesterone. Simulations for these hormones can be delivered through injections, topical ointments, gels, tablets, and capsules with the aim of helping to return hormone levels back to active state. BHRT should be used in conjunction with a holistic regimen of hormonal healing, such as healthy diet, exercise, restful sleep, and stress-reducing activities. Each of these elements plays a significant role in our hormonal health.
A PCOS diagnosis does not mean the end of your chances to have a child. With proper management, PCOS symptoms can be greatly reduced or put into remission altogether.
We believe that an empowered patient is a healthier patient. We’ll work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that puts you in control of your lifestyle and your health.
Are you having trouble conceiving? Get in touch today. We can work toward the answers behind your condition and create a treatment plan for you.