So, you have just been diagnosed with PCOS. Now you’re wondering, “can I still get pregnant?”
For many women with the same condition, that question is definitely on top of their minds. PCOS is directly associated with problems involved in fertility and conception.
As the birthrate worldwide plunged over the decades, women are more conscious about their reproductive health, especially during their childbearing years.
And PCOS is a condition to watch out for as the symptoms are subtle and could easily be overlooked.
In fact, many women with PCOS only learn about it when they finally try to conceive and fail to do so.
Some have successfully regulated the condition and managed to get pregnant – although it’s not an easy one. While others have succumbed to infertility and had to consider other unconventional methods of having children.
With September marking PCOS Awareness Month, let’s look deeper into the nature of PCOS, its consequences, and how to handle them the right way.
Read on and find out how you can still carry a full-term pregnancy if you’re diagnosed with PCOS.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS is short for polycystic ovary syndrome. It is characterized by hormonal imbalances, particularly the overproduction of androgens or male sex hormones that are supposed only to be released in small quantities.
The term polycystic describes the multiple tiny cysts forming in the ovary. They are usually regarded as harmless and quite different from other more severe and larger forms of ovarian cysts.
However, not all women diagnosed with PCOS develop these cysts. In that sense, the formation of cysts is merely a symptom and not the cause of the disorder.
Is PCOS a Serious Problem?
While PCOS can lead to infertility, it does not automatically pose a life-threatening problem. However, if you have PCOS, you are at risk of developing chronic health conditions known to be fatal. Some of the disorders associated with PCOS are the following:
- Type 2 Diabetes
There is an established link between insulin resistance and the overproduction of androgen that leads to PCOS.
Insulin resistance is the inability of the cells to use insulin properly, leading to the rise of glucose in the blood. It is a direct symptom of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
A majority of women with PCOS develop diabetes, resulting in severe health conditions such as kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, blindness, and many more.
- Heart Disease and Stroke
Aside from insulin resistance, women with PCOS also develop metabolic syndrome, which disrupts the body’s normal energy use. This condition often leads to the deposition of fats in the blood vessels, which affect the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.
With PCOS, your risks for disorders such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and stroke increase.
Aside from the accumulation of fats due to metabolic dysfunctions, women with PCOS are also prone to long-term inflammation.
While this immune response is commonly invoked when foreign substances invade the body, subjecting the cells to frequent inflammation can cause serious damages such as plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Depression and Anxiety
Cases of mood disorders like depression and anxiety are common among those who have been diagnosed with PCOS.
Although it is not clear how these conditions developed, several theories and assumptions make complete sense in one way or another.
One PCOS-related disorder associated with depression and anxiety is insulin resistance. It is widely believed that the hormonal imbalance caused by this condition affects the production of hormones and neurotransmitters affecting mood.
Moreover, weight gain, excessive hair growth, and acne can be inevitable if you have PCOS which also fuels stress and anxiety. That’s why people often say that PCOS itself is a triggering factor for depression and other mood disorders.
What Are the Symptoms of PCOS?
- Irregular or absent period
- Irregular or absent ovulation (difficulty getting pregnant)
- Acne and oily skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Excessive body and facial hair
- Thinning or hair loss on your head
What Are the Causes of PCOS?
Even years after its discovery, doctors and researchers are still baffled by the primary culprit for PCOS. That’s because the exact cause of PCOS is still unknown.
However, several pieces of evidence associate family history or genetics with the likelihood of developing PCOS. So if someone in your family has PCOS, chances are you’re most likely prone to having the disorder.
Insulin resistance and inflammation are also considered as contributing factors. If you are diagnosed with health problems associated with these conditions, it’s also a good step to see your gynecologist about your risk for PCOS.
How Does PCOS Cause Infertility?
PCOS prevents the ovaries from producing the necessary hormones for the development of the egg cell. Usually, a woman releases one egg cell per menstrual cycle – a process called ovulation. Without a viable egg available for fertilization, natural conception is impossible.
In a nutshell, PCOS makes it difficult for women to produce an egg cell which will become available for the sperm cell to fertilize.
How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
Looking into your family history and recent physiological changes like unexplained weight gain, missed periods, etc., is critical for diagnosing PCOS. Furthermore, these will be followed by a thorough evaluation of symptoms.
To do so, your gynecologist will perform or request the following procedures:
- Physical Exam
Your doctor will assess if you have hirsutism or excessive hair growth, acne formation, and other symptoms. A pelvic exam is also done to check for lumps or masses in your reproductive organs.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound
Your ovaries will be the primary organ of interest when diagnosing PCOS. To evaluate whether abnormal cysts are formed, your doctor will perform a transvaginal ultrasound.
In this procedure, a probe is inserted into the vagina to view the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries using sound waves.
- Blood Test
Since PCOS is a hormonal disorder, it only fits to assess hormone levels, specifically androgens, to confirm the condition.
Your doctor may order you to take a Comprehensive Female Hormone Profile Blood Test to evaluate your reproductive hormones. One critical test in this package is the assessment of Total Testosterone. If your result shows high levels of this hormone, it pretty much suggests PCOS.
Once the diagnosis is finalized, you will be working with your doctor to manage the hormonal imbalance.
Unfortunately, as the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown, there is also no precise cure for the condition. Nonetheless, there are effective ways to live with PCOS and still be pregnant/
How to Get Pregnant Quickly If You Have PCOS
Without a cure, lots of women with PCOS became frustrated and anxious about their fertility.
However, the PCOS diagnosis doesn’t mean that all hope is lost especially if you’re trying to conceive.
You can make several adjustments in your lifestyle to still guarantee a healthy pregnancy despite the condition. You can start with the following changes:
1. Weight Loss
Clinical evidence suggests that successful weight loss increases the chances of pregnancy for women with PCOS. In addition, a 5% weight loss is known to improve the levels of androgen and insulin resistance levels.
The link between unexplained weight gain and PCOS has long been established. However, there is no clear rationale on whether one causes the other or vice versa. Furthermore, obesity is also associated with PCOS. Thus, weight management is an essential step.
Nonetheless, with insulin resistance as a critical trigger for PCOS, it’s no surprise that shedding some pounds can alleviate the condition.
Two essential steps in weight loss are regular exercise and a change in diet. However, if you’re having trouble losing some weight, you can always join programs that will guide you in the process.
Likewise, it is imperative to secure a Weight Loss Profile before you start your journey. This way, you don’t simply collect your baseline data, but you will also learn if there are other factors hindering successful weight loss.
2. Diet Alteration
As insulin resistance fails to have glucose processed and stored, foods high in sugar should be limited if not eliminated from your diet. This means you can take off foods and products like pasta, bread, soda, pastry, and other sugary goods from your grocery list.
Instead, replace your carbohydrate-filled meals with fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals.
You can go for natural sources of proteins like almonds, fish, lentils, walnuts, and hummus. Also, you can include low-fat foods in your meal plans, such as avocados and yogurt.
Your doctor will prescribe several medications to address PCOS symptoms. Aside from birth control, most of these medications are intended for weight loss, ovulation stimulation, and insulin resistance management.
Here are some of the common medications given to women with PCOS if they wish to get pregnant:
Metformin – It lowers the blood sugar level. When you’re diagnosed with PCOS, you are at risk of having high glucose levels in the blood because of insulin resistance.
Clomiphene and Letrozole – These medications will help you ovulate by stimulating the production of egg cells in the ovaries.
In a Nutshell
PCOS may be considered mainly hereditary, but fundamental lifestyle changes still remain the most effective means of managing it.
If you’re planning to conceive but diagnosed with PCOS, know that the condition does not entirely mean that you will never get pregnant.
It’s more challenging, but with proper weight management methods and a great partnership with your gynecologist, you can still protect your fertility.
Awareness about PCOS can improve women’s understanding of fertility and reproductive health issues. If you find this post informative and relevant, don’t hesitate to share it with others.