Why is a PCOS diet important during pregnancy?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that can be associated with irregular periods, ovarian cysts, acne, excess body hair, and weight gain. It’s also one of the top causes of female infertility in the United States. The good news? PCOS is totally treatable. With lifestyle changes and medication, many people with PCOS can balance their hormones, regulate their ovulation, and become pregnant.

Unfortunately, PCOS doesn’t just make it harder for you to conceive. It can also increase your risk of complications during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and preeclampsia. So, managing PCOS symptoms is a top priority – and this is where your diet comes in! The foods you eat while pregnant can help you regulate your hormones and support a healthy pregnancy for both you and your growing baby.

Here are our top four tips for using your diet to manage PCOS symptoms during pregnancy:

Stock up on nutrient-dense foods

You already know that eating healthy is essential while you’re pregnant. Well, this is especially true for people with PCOS. To manage hormone health during your pregnancy, chow down on foods rich in these key nutrients:

  • Fiber: Eating 10 grams of fiber a day may help your body regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing your risk of gestational diabetes. Fiber-rich foods include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and good old-fashioned fruits and vegetables.
  • Protein: Protein is an all-star when it comes to supporting your baby’s growth throughout your pregnancy. Try to get 71 grams a day with protein-packed foods like lean meats, seafood, eggs, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Healthy fat: Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids — like omega-3 — that can support your hormone health and your baby’s development. Enrich your diet with fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts. 
Managing PCOS through food and diet

Switch up your carb intake

When your body digests carbohydrates, it breaks them down into sugars (glucose). Simple carbs (white bread, pasta, soda, donuts, etc.) are easy for the body to break down – but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Since your body converts simple carbohydrates into glucose quickly, simple carbs can give you a sugar rush and cause spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Complex carbohydrates, aka slow carbs, take longer for your body to break down into glucose. They’re a more steady source of energy in comparison to simple carbs. Avoid the dreaded spike-and-crash phenomenon by sticking to foods with complex carbs, such as beans, peas, whole grains, and vegetables.

Supplement your diet with a prenatal multivitamin

It’s always ideal to get your dietary nutrient requirements from actual food, but that’s just not in the cards some days. A prenatal multivitamin can help fill in the gaps for everyone, but is especially important for those days when your diet falls short. Talk with your provider about your nutrient requirements during pregnancy, and then look for a prenatal multivitamin brand that meets your needs – especially for iron, calcium, folate/folic acid, and vitamin D.

Embrace the power of a good snack

Many women with PCOS are told over and over that they need to lose weight if they want to get pregnant. That mindset is hard to shake, even after you conceive. But trying to keep yourself from eating foods you crave isn’t always the best idea for everyone. Food restriction often leads to binge eating, which makes it even harder for your body to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Instead, try to eat a meal or snack every few hours, depending on how hungry you feel. Not only will this help stabilize blood sugar levels, but it can also help you avoid sugar crashes that can worsen your first-trimester nausea and fatigue.

The word “diet” often brings up thoughts of putting different foods off-limits, but the PCOS diet is more about packing in healthy, nutrient-rich foods wherever you can. If you’re pregnant with PCOS, we recommend prioritizing nutritious eating, physical activity, and being kind to yourself. You are growing a small human inside your body, after all!

For additional information, our patient Carey Shofner shares her journey with PCOS.

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PCOS Symptoms, Causes and Tip to Boost Fertility

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. 

September 28, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock