When you’re diagnosed with PCOS it can feel like your chances of getting pregnant without invasive IVF treatments have collapsed. Even the drugs that can help you ovulate more cause dramatic side effects – including headaches and mood swings – that can make them firmly a last resort.
Fortunately, PCOS does not make a natural pregnancy impossible. We won’t deny it makes it more challenging, but if you understand the condition and why it makes pregnancy harder you can take steps to rebalance the odds in you favour.
Why Does PCOS Make it Hard to Get Pregnant?
PCOS is an endocrine condition, meaning it is caused by and affects your hormones. This gives it a long list of symptoms affecting many parts of your body, from issues with skin pigmentation, hair loss and hirsutism, acne outbreaks and even depression and anxiety.
It also means it can interfere dramatically with your menstrual cycle, which is governed and regulated by hormones. Specifically, PCOS causes your ovaries to mature eggs more slowly and irregularly. This means you ovulate less often, and it’s harder to predict when it will happen, which means you have fewer chances to get pregnant and it’s easier to miss them as they don’t happen in a regular cycle.
PCOS can also cause swelling and discomfort as immature follicles (the sacs which eggs are stored and matured in) remain in the ovaries. These are the poly (many) cysts that give the condition its name, and their presence on an ultrasound scan is often how it is diagnosed.
This indicates a focus for you: if you can find out how to ovulate with PCOS you can give yourself an increased chance of getting pregnant!
What Causes PCOS?
The hormones that interfere with your menstrual cycle are androgens – male sex hormones. A woman’s body does produce low levels of androgens naturally, but PCOS stimulates a much higher level of androgen production, and it’s this that causes the fertility issues of the condition.
Those androgens are themselves stimulated by an increased level of insulin – this is the primary driver of PCOS. Doctors don’t yet know why this high level of insulin triggers, and why some women are susceptible to it and others aren’t, but if you can control your insulin levels you can stimulate more frequent and regular ovulation.
Insulin and PCOS
Reducing your insulin levels isn’t easy – it’s well worth making sure you have your doctor or nutritionist onside when you start – but you can make strides by adjusting your diet. A low GI-Diet means less sugar hitting your blood stream at once, and this encourages a slow but steady production of insulin, rather than a big peak after every meal.
You can also try a supplement of Inositol: this is a natural compound that helps you body to use insulin effectively, meaning it should need to create less. Inositol has long been a vital supplement for women with PCOS looking to conceive.