If you’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may be imagining a future where pregnancy is impossible for you. We know how devastating it can be to receive this news.
However, PCOS doesn’t mean an end to your dream of motherhood — we’ve seen this firsthand. And we’d like to help increase your chances by sharing our knowledge of the subject.
Multiple treatments exist today that help to improve PCOS conditions. We’ll talk about those here. We’ll answer your questions about PCOS and describe the symptoms if you’re concerned you may have it. We’ll also discuss lifestyle and diet changes you can make to help the process and outline the fertility treatments that may boost your chances of getting pregnant sooner.
Don’t give up on your dream of having children! Read on to learn more.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is when the ovaries develop small cysts and the body cannot ovulate regularly. It’s one of the leading causes of infertility and can affect a woman’s health in many other ways (1).
Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS affects 1 in every 10 women, so if you’re coming to terms with this diagnosis, take heart that you’re not alone.
Many women struggle without ever knowing what’s really behind their infertility or other frustrating symptoms. The lack of education about PCOS can be disheartening, but fortunately, a little understanding can go a long way.
Some of the most common side effects of PCOS aside from infertility include:
- Weight gain: Women with PCOS may notice weight gain without an obvious reason.
- Hair loss: Thinning hair or hair loss, particularly on the scalp, could indicate PCOS when paired with other symptoms.
- Hair growth: The most embarrassing part of PCOS is hair growth everywhere. Your face, back, and even your feet can suddenly start sprouting hair where there was none before. The medical term for this is hirsutism, and it is a significant challenge for many women with PCOS.
- Excessive bleeding and cramping: Women with PCOS often report that the side effects of their periods are much worse than for women who don’t have PCOS.
- Irregular cycles: Many women with PCOS struggle with irregular cycles, which can make trying to get pregnant feel like a monthly roller coaster ride they never signed up for.
- Skin problems: Acne, skin tags, and skin discoloration are additional side effects of PCOS.
If you’re concerned you may have PCOS and that it could explain your infertility, ask your health care practitioner about it. They’ll be able to put your mind at ease and discuss possible treatment options with you.
Can You Get Pregnant with PCOS?
The misconception that PCOS removes any chance of pregnancy can shatter a woman’s hopes and dreams, which is why I was so inspired to write about it. A close friend of mine struggled with PCOS and now has two beautiful, healthy children. It may take some extra work, but you can get pregnant if you have PCOS (2).
You can improve your PCOS, increase your chances for regular ovulation, and handle the undesirable side effects with a little patience and some lifestyle changes. Many women can address their infertility from home, but in most cases, medical help is also needed.
Why Does PCOS Impact Pregnancy Chances?
PCOS significantly affects the body part most involved with fertility — the ovaries. PCOS affects fertility because it disrupts hormone levels and can even prevent ovulation — the act of releasing an egg. Irregular periods make it much harder to conceive a child.
The hormonal imbalance PCOS causes can also affect the development of your eggs or the way your body handles them. You may ovulate, but the egg might not be prepared for fertilization, and in the end, you may not conceive (3).
Three Home Treatments for PCOS Infertility
Not everyone has the time, money, or motivation to undergo medical treatments to address PCOS. Professional help will bring quicker and more reliable success rates than simple lifestyle changes. But it never hurts to try to tackle the problem on your own before reaching out.
As always, keep an open line of communication with your doctor about everything you’re doing. They’ll be able to offer more advice and information and steer you in the right direction if you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS.
1. Weight Loss
Since PCOS can affect your metabolism, many women with the condition find they struggle to lose weight. The trouble is that being overweight has been proven to affect your chances of conceiving, with overweight women having a 35% lower chance of getting pregnant than other women.
Losing weight with PCOS can be challenging, but it’s possible, just like being pregnant is possible! Fortunately, losing even a little weight with diet and exercise will significantly improve your chances of becoming pregnant.
Remember that the basis behind many cases of PCOS is insulin resistance. For this reason, losing 5-10% of your body weight can reduce insulin resistance and improve irregular menstrual cycles. By improving the way your body produces insulin and responds to glucose, you can improve your likelihood of becoming pregnant.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
2. Track Your Ovulation
Did you know that you can have a period even if you don’t ovulate? It’s true!
Many women with PCOS don’t understand why they can’t seem to conceive. Track your ovulation for a clearer idea of what’s happening in your body. This process will help you learn when to try to conceive and how to maintain a healthy, regular cycle. Understanding the rhythms of your monthly cycle can help you pinpoint areas you need to address or identify problems you might not have noticed before.
Having a cycle every month does not mean you are releasing eggs every month. It is important to look to other signs to ensure your body is following the proper steps to becoming pregnant.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
3. Take Supplements, and Stay Healthy
It’s essential that you care for your body when you have PCOS. The symptoms that frustrate you most will probably be the extra hair growth, acne, or weight gain. But many women with PCOS also lack the essential vitamins they need, which affects their fertility.
Start with vitamin D, as it’s a great supplement for any woman trying to conceive. Vitamin D can improve your chance of conception, but it’s even more vital for women with PCOS.
The healthier your lifestyle, the less your body will suffer from PCOS, which improves your chances of conceiving.
Three Medical Treatments for PCOS Infertility
Have you tried everything under the sun and feel like you’re out of ideas? Don’t panic. Modern medicine has advanced, and plenty of safe and effective treatments are available to help reverse your PCOS symptoms and prepare your body to conceive.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process in which your eggs are harvested and fertilized in a lab. They are then reintroduced into your body once they show viable signs of life. IVF has helped many people overcome the hurdle of conception and go on to become parents.
In fact, this treatment is used to treat a variety of infertility issues affecting both men and women. It’s one of the best treatments for helping couples overcome infertility (4).
2. Fertility Medication
One of the most popular methods of treating PCOS and improving fertility is a medication called Clomid. This medication is designed to help balance your hormones, stimulate your ovaries, and improve your odds of conception.
Clomid is not the only fertility pill available, but it is the most prescribed. It’s best for treating irregular cycles, which is the main problem with PCOS and is an excellent option for women with this condition (5).
3. Fertility Injections
Gonadotropins are fertility drugs that jumpstart your ovulation. These are especially popular with women who have PCOS. Some women take the injections in conjunction with an IVF treatment schedule, but they can also be taken on their own.
This option is a little more invasive than taking pills since you self-administer regular injections designed to help your hormones and body prepare for pregnancy. You’ll be carefully monitored during this time (6).
Can PCOS Cause You to Miscarry?
For all the same reasons PCOS makes it hard for your body to conceive, it also makes it more likely to miscarry.
However, the same things you can do to get pregnant can help you stay that way. A miscarriage can happen in any pregnancy. PCOS increases the chance of miscarriage, but that doesn’t mean the risk can’t be managed.
Good health, regular preconception appointments, a wholesome diet, and pregnancy-safe exercise can improve the chances of having a full-term, successful pregnancy. Once you put your body first, you’ll begin to see a better you and improve your chances for a successful pregnancy.
Other Risks While Pregnant with PCOS
Once the first trimester has passed, the chances of miscarriage drop. However, there is still one thing to watch out for with PCOS.
Gestational diabetes is more common in women with PCOS, which isn’t surprising as diabetes is common in overweight people (7). Going into a pregnancy with a healthy weight and eating plan can help improve your chances of sailing through your pregnancy in good health.
Having Multiple Children with PCOS
Once you’ve had your first baby, it might feel impossible to ever conceive again if you struggled with PCOS symptoms.
With PCOS, is it even possible to go through all the same infertility hoops to get pregnant again? That’s a question that can only be answered by you, but be encouraged that it is not impossible to have as many children as you want.
The good news is that once you’ve had a successful pregnancy, you’ll have a better idea of which treatments work best for you. You’re an expert on your own body, so try what worked in the past, keep in touch with your health care practitioner, and wait for another positive test!