PCOS and Fertility: Exploring the Challenges and Treatment Options
Posted on September 13th, 2023
Did you know September is designated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Month? The most frequently seen hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age, PCOS involves multiple small, fluid-filled cysts developing along the ovary’s outer edges. While incurable, various treatments and lifestyle changes may help relieve symptoms and preserve your fertility.
The Effects of PCOS on Fertility
One of the leading causes of female infertility, PCOS impacts ovarian follicles, which are fluid-filled pockets responsible for releasing eggs during ovulation. With PCOS, the eggs contained within the follicles do not develop and mature properly, causing the egg release to not occur as normal. PCOS can also impact the uterine lining, making it challenging for mature eggs to implant. In general, PCOS can lead to a wide variety of issues with ovulation, menstruation, and conception.
PCOS is associated with various types of hormonal imbalances, which can have an impact on fertility and general health. Patients with PCOS typically have low levels of progesterone, which is an important hormone for regulating menstruation and preparing the womb for conception. Another common characteristic of PCOS is high levels of androgen, a hormone that is often associated with the male reproductive system. Women naturally produce small amounts of androgen as well, but with PCOS, higher androgen levels can disrupt ovulation and cause a wide range of symptoms, including hair loss, acne, and abnormal hair growth.
Outside of fertility, PCOS can also increase insulin levels; insulin is the hormone responsible for converting blood glucose into energy to be used by the body. As a result, patients with PCOS are often insulin-resistant, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes.
Common PCOS Fertility Treatments
While incurable, certain PCOS treatment options may help improve fertility by reducing symptoms and preventing related health concerns. These options may depend on such factors as your age, symptom severity, overall health, and whether or not you plan on becoming pregnant.
PCOS Lifestyle Changes
Certain self-care measures may help to relieve PCOS symptoms, as well as improve chances of conception:
- Diet – Consume a PCOS-friendly diet, with lean protein sources, anti-inflammatory foods, and high-fiber foods that delay digestion and lower blood glucose effects. You should also reduce or avoid starchy and sugary foods.
- Physical activity – Regular exercise may help regulate insulin, reduce glucose levels, and improve ovulation. Consider gentle, low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, and aerobics.
- Sleep – Women with PCOS may have twice the normal number of sleep disturbances, impacting stress levels and regulation of the hormone cortisol, which balances other hormones. Ideally, try to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night, set a regular bedtime, and avoid caffeine several hours before bed.
Fertility Care for PCOS
In some cases, medications may be prescribed to improve fertility with PCOS. These medications can help regulate periods and manage other PCOS symptoms. However, if medication does not improve PCOS-related infertility, then fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or surgery may be recommended.
Explore PCOS Effects and Fertility Treatments
As PCOS can significantly affect female fertility, it’s essential to know about its symptoms and available treatments. Whether you suspect or have been diagnosed with PCOS, talk to your doctor about ways to manage and treat PCOS and preserve your fertility. If you’d like to schedule a PCOS consultation in Texas, we invite you to contact the fertility specialists of Aspire Fertility.