PCOS + Your Fertility: Everything You Need to Know.
By now you likely have learned – either by our previous posts or through your own experiences – PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a hormonal imbalance, and September is the official awareness month for this syndrome, which affects one in 10 women of child-bearing age. That’s a lot of women who may or may not be aware PCOS is the reason for some of their hormonal symptomology. PCOS is also one of the leading causes of infertility in women. So, it’s really important we dig in here.
PCOS explained…kind of.
What is PCOS and what are its symptoms? Well, frustratingly, it’s cause is unknown, but it’s considered a hormonal issue. For those of you who live with this, it likely does not seem just an “issue”. We understand that. For the science of it, however, everyone – women and men – produce androgen hormones. They’re often thought of as male hormones since men produce significantly higher levels than women; androgens play a key role in developing male sex organs and male traits. Typically, in women, androgens convert into estrogen. However, women with PCOS don’t convert the androgens normally – the elevated levels cause ovulation issues amongst much else. Often, one of the symptoms women with PCOS experience is missed or irregular menstruation.
As a reminder – in case you suspect you might be suffering from PCOS – other symptoms include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Weight gain
- High insulin levels
- Excess body & facial hair
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic pain
- Thinning hair on the head
- Poor sleep
Just as there is no known cause of PCOS, there’s no one test that can diagnose the condition either. A full medical history, a series of lab tests, and a sonogram, potentially, will be done to rule out other causes of your symptoms and help make a PCOS diagnosis. If you’re experiencing any combination of the symptoms described above and have had difficulty getting pregnant, please reach out to us to determine if PCOS could be affecting your fertility.
PCOS & pregnancy…it’s possible.
Please please hear this though: women with PCOS CAN AND DO become pregnant. PCOS is not a diagnosis of a barren womb. Your doctor should discuss which options may be best for you. If not, be sure to ask and don’t settle for less than all the options. Common fertility drug treatments include:
- Metformin: Metformin may help regulate your cycle by lowering high insulin and blood glucose levels and normalizing your androgen hormone levels.
- Clomiphene citrate: Combining this ovulation-inducing medication with metformin can be beneficial in helping women with PCOS get pregnant faster than those who take metformin alone.
- Gonadotropins: Often recommended for women who don’t ovulate normally, these naturally occurring hormones stimulate your ovaries to produce one or more eggs. Doctors frequently turn to gonadotropins for patients who don’t respond well to treatment with clomiphene citrate.
Lifestyle changes…let us suggest a few.
Weight is often looked at when it comes to PCOS and infertility. Excess pounds affect your hormone levels, so losing weight could be the first step to getting your hormones back to normal levels. Women who lose as little as 5-10% of their body weight may see an improvement in ovulation, menstruation, and insulin sensitivity.
The caveat that stirs our empathy even more: many women with PCOS find it tougher to shed pounds than those who do not have PCOS, and many women with PCOS have additional pounds because of PCOS and its hormonal irregularities. Despite this, your effort to make a few changes will be well worth it. Move in whatever way feels good to you – walking, yoga, swimming, dancing. Improve your diet by replacing processed foods with whole grains and food high in dietary fiber. If you feel as though your diet is very healthy and your exercise is good, consider consulting a nutritionist or holistic doctor to take a deeper dive with you. Moderate exercise and a healthy diet that fits you and your body not only help improve your odds of becoming pregnant, they can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases, lower stress levels, and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
***Should you suspect you could be suffering from PCOS, If you think PCOS may be affecting your ability to become pregnant, or if you seek additional help on your journey, please reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org ***
Your Trellis Family