When it comes time to start a family, specifically for those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), many questions and concerns can come to mind. The most common being, "How will PCOS affect my fertility?"
With PCOS affecting up to 10% of reproductive-aged women, understanding how this hormonal imbalance will affect your journey to parenthood is so important.
Why It’s More Challenging to Conceive with PCOS
Because PCOS is an ovulatory disorder, it affects how often eggs are released. This can cause irregular periods and increased testosterone levels — two factors that negatively affect the development of a woman’s eggs.
What You Can Do to Increase Your Fertility
Having PCOS does not automatically mean you’re infertile. Many have conceived with PCOS, especially when working with a fertility specialist who can suggest lifestyle changes that can help bolster fertility.
Although PCOS does not only affect women who are overweight, weight loss is often the first step in increasing your chances of getting pregnant. Improving your diet and exercise routine will not cure PCOS, however, it can help the body to regulate hormone levels and insulin usage, both important parts of conception. Even a moderate 10% loss in weight can improve the body’s ovulation cycle!
What Your Doctor Can Do to Help You Conceive
If a healthy diet and an active lifestyle haven’t changed your ovulation patterns, it may be time to talk with your doctor about fertility medications. A doctor will typically suggest mild forms of treatment first, before attempting more extreme measures.
- Selective estrogen modulators: In an effort to stimulate and regulate your ovulation cycle, estrogen modulators are often the first medication used to help women with PCOS get pregnant.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): In some cases, women with PCOS ultimately require (IVF) in order to achieve a healthy pregnancy — this entails daily fertility injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs, which are then harvested in a minor procedure. These eggs are then fertilized in a lab and the resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus or frozen (cryopreserved) for future use.
How Does PCOS Affect a Pregnancy?
When you have PCOS, your risk of diabetes while pregnant (also known as gestational diabetes) increases. Though all pregnancies require a glucose screening test (often administered between 24 and 28 weeks) to determine the presence of diabetes, those with PCOS may be tested sooner. If diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will most likely be put on an adjusted diet to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
It’s also recommended that all women, especially those with PCOS, monitor their weight gain during pregnancy. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a quicker and easier labor if they only gain the recommended amount of weight, based on their BMI:
- BMI between 18.5-24.9 — between 25 and 35 lbs.
- BMI between 25-29.6 — between 15 and 25 lbs.
- BMI above 30 — between 11 and 20 lbs.
Women who gain excessive weight during their pregnancy are more likely to have larger babies, longer labors, and an increased risk for C-sections.
Contact Our Georgia Infertility Specialists at ACRM
When it comes to trying to conceive with PCOS, it is best to consult your PCP and OB/GYN as well as a fertility specialist, like the team here at Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment.