Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often turn to fertility treatment for help in getting pregnant. In fact, it's one of the most common causes in women's infertility and treatment offers promising results, either with ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or IVF with an egg donor.
Here's what to expect when navigating both fertility and PCOS.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS) is a health issue that affects as many as 10% of women. It can impact fertility and pregnancy, as well as present ongoing health issues. Here are some of the most common polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms that may indicate it's time to see a health specialist:
Irregular menstrual cycle
Hirsutism (excess hair on face and chin)
Darkened skin along groin, face creases, and under breasts
Skin tags on neck or in armpits.
It's possible to manage some of these aesthetic symptoms. Studies also indicate that losing just 10% of your weight can help ease these symptoms and even improve the odds of getting pregnant with PCOS.
If you notice any signs of polycystic ovary syndrome, it may be worth seeing your doctor to identify next steps, especially if you hope to get pregnant in the near future.
How Common Is Infertility with PCOS?
Wondering if PCOS is a severe problem when it comes to infertility? Unfortunately, the answer is often yes. Eighty percent of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome experience infertility issues. In fact, PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women, accounting for as much as 30% of all cases. The reason is because PCOS causes a hormonal imbalance that interrupts ovulation, which is the process of growing and releasing eggs in the ovaries.
The good news is that having PCOS doesn't mean there's no chance of getting pregnant. It's actually quite treatable. You just may need to make some lifestyle changes or utilize a fertility treatment plan to help the process.
Can I Still Get Pregnant With PCOS?
Yes, women who have PCOS can and do still get pregnant and have healthy and happy babies. There are two primary polycystic ovary syndrome treatment options to conceive:
Undergo specialized fertility treatments
Make healthy lifestyle changes that can help with natural conception.
Here's how each process works.
Seeking fertility treatment is another option for women with PCOS. This treatment may be as simple as taking ovulation induction medication to ensure that an egg is released. In women with PCOS, this process usually does not occur, which is the root cause for their infertility. Additionally, IVF has high success rates, particularly at a high-quality fertility clinic. At Oma, we use the best technology available, including 3D ultrasound machines and embryo incubation.
The process entails stimulating the ovaries to generate multiple eggs, then identifying the most promising sperm and egg to create fertilized embryos. After a short incubation, the embryo is transferred to the womb to develop. The process is both safe and effective, particularly for women with PCOS. And it's possible to use donor eggs if needed.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes for Natural Conception
In some cases, losing weight can relieve some of the issues associated with ovulatory dysfunction. Optimizing your diet and exercise routine and taking doctor-recommended supplements can make a difference in getting pregnant naturally.
PCOS is also considered an inflammatory condition, meaning there's chronic inflammation in the body. Eating anti-inflammatory foods (and avoiding inflammatory foods like carbs) may also provide relief and improve fertility.
There are also several prescription medications that can help improve fertility in women with PCOS. Talk to your doctor or fertility specialist to determine if any are right for you.
How To Track Ovulation if You Have PCOS
Using an ovulation prediction kit (OPK) can help track your cycle when you have polycystic ovarian syndrome. OPKs track your levels of luteinizing hormone (or LH), which spikes right before you ovulate. In some women with PCOS the LH levels are chronically high, which may make it harder to detect a spike in LH. These test strips are easy to find online or at a local drug store.
Another option is to track your basal body temperature, which is different from your standard temperature you're used to measuring at home. You'll need a thermometer, and you must take your temperature first thing each morning, prior to any activity. There are some wearable thermometers that handle the temperature-taking for you. Just like your LH levels, your basal body temperature will also jump right around ovulation.
Analyzing all of this information in a cycle tracking app is an easy way to predict trends and improve your chance of conception. There are several options available, including apps like Clue, Fertility Friend, and Mira.
Does PCOS Come Back After Pregnancy?
Yes, polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms may return after giving birth. It is a syndrome whose effects are mostly felt during the reproductive years. After childbirth, one of the biggest concerns is weight gain. Just as excessive weight is a major factor in fertility with PCOS, it also plays a role in how symptoms may reappear afterwards.
Continuing to maintain a healthy weight and diet is the best course for maintenance. If symptoms persist, it's also smart to talk to your doctor about any medications that may help.
It is also helpful to talk to your doctor about general health concerns like high blood pressure or high cholesterol that can be associated with PCOS.