How Does Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Affect Fertility?
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health condition caused by imbalances in your reproductive hormones. It’s also one of the most common causes of female infertility. Common signs of PCOS include acne, excess body hair, weight gain, obesity, and irregular periods.
Besides infertility, PCOS is also linked to other health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea. Here’s the good news: PCOS is usually treatable with lifestyle changes, medication, or a combination of the two.
Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?
Yes, it’s still possible to conceive with a diagnosis of PCOS. It may just take a little extra work. Once you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, your next step is working to regulate your reproductive hormones to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Your healthcare provider can work with you to figure out which medications and lifestyle changes (think: exercising more or switching up your diet) and/or hormone-regulating medications can help you conceive.
How does PCOS affect fertility?
Some women with PCOS have no trouble getting pregnant, but that’s not always the case. That’s because PCOS causes hormonal imbalances that can keep your ovaries from releasing a healthy egg each month as part of your menstrual cycle.
To get pregnant spontaneously (also referred to as conceiving “naturally,” as in, without assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization [IVF] or intrauterine insemination [IUI]), three things must happen within your body on their own: you need to ovulate, a sperm needs to fertilize your egg within 24 hours of ovulation, and the fertilized egg or “blastocyst” needs to implant in your uterine lining. If you’re not ovulating — or you’re ovulating so irregularly that it’s impossible to time sex when you’re fertile — it can be almost impossible to get pregnant.
Fortunately, with the assistance of your OB/GYN or a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist (also called an “REI specialist” or fertility doctor), it’s often possible to manage PCOS symptoms, regulate your menstrual cycles, and get pregnant without help from treatments like IUI or IVF.
How can I increase my fertility with PCOS?
If you have PCOS, the main way to improve your fertility is to get your ovulation back on track. But remember, managing PCOS is different for everyone, and it may take some time to figure out which treatments and/or at-home remedies work for you. The most common ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS include:
- Adding physical activity to your weekly routine, especially exercises that help you build muscle.
- Focusing on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
- Working with your doctor to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Managing insulin sensitivity with dietary changes or medication, such as Metformin.
- Tracking your cycles and timing sex when you’re fertile (the 5 days before and 24 hours after you ovulate).
If diet and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to restart ovulation, your provider may recommend medication, such as clomiphene (Clomid). And, if that doesn’t work, you may start exploring additional fertility treatments. There’s still no cure for PCOS today, but lifestyle changes and medication are often enough to help you manage symptoms and restore your fertility.
Read Carey Shofner’s PCOS Journey, and inspiring success story.
Our patient Tania Villalta also had some great tips and words of encouragement for PCOS sufferers!
@junodiagnostics If you have PCOS, @pcosnowmama recommends #JunoDx to help alleviate some of the pregnancy anxiety💜 #pcosawareness #pcospregnancy #momanxiety ♬ Sia - Xeptemper
Follow Carey Shofner's story, who shares her journey through PCOS and infertility.
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Please Be Aware: JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to be and do not constitute medical advice, other health advice, or diagnosis. Do not use JunoDx.com or the materials and information published at JunoDx.com as a substitute for medical care and treatment. You should always consult with a qualified physician or healthcare provider about your specific circumstances.