PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common hormonal disorder in females and is commonly characterized by irregular or no periods, abnormal facial hair and/or male pattern hair on the neck, back, stomach or abdomen.
The condition of PCOS can make the female’s journey to conceive harder as she is at higher risk of developing complications in her pregnancy. However, by managing the symptoms, many females with PCOS can get pregnant and have a healthy baby. It is important to know that PCOS and pregnancy complications are very real. That is why it is essential to take informed measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy. In my experience as a gynecologist, below are the effects of PCOS on pregnancy and some guidance on how you can get pregnant with PCOS.
What is PCOS?
Simply put, PCOS is a condition when the female body produces an excess of male hormones – androgens, which leads to a hormonal imbalance. The condition can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle and cause ovarian cysts. PCOS, also known as “Stein-Leventhal Syndrome” is a common disorder, affecting about 1 out of every 10 females.
PCOS usually goes unnoticed. Most of the time, it is diagnosed when a female is unable to conceive, even after trying to get pregnant for quite a long time. Here are the factors that can cause PCOS.
As per the doctors, the major causes of PCOS can be:
- Obesity: One of the major and commonly observed causes of PCOS is obesity, which further causes insulin resistance and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Insulin resistance: This happens when cells cannot use insulin properly. The pancreas then makes more insulin to meet the body’s demand. This causes the ovaries to produce more male hormones, androgens.
- Genes: Genetic factors play an important role in PCOS. Many genes can contribute to this condition. Females with a family history of PCOS are at a higher risk of developing it.
- Inflammation: Females with PCOS often have higher than normal levels of inflammation in their body, which can cause higher androgen levels. Being overweight can contribute to inflammation.
Also Read: 10 Myths Debunked about PCOS in Women
PCOS and Pregnancy- Does PCOS affect pregnancy?
PCOS can make it difficult for the female to conceive and get pregnant. However, even if she does, she may face several complications in her pregnancy, including-
- Miscarriage or pregnancy loss- Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of miscarriage in the initial months as compared to women without PCOS.
- Preterm birth- Babies who are delivered before 37 weeks of pregnancy are called preterm babies. They are at a higher risk of developing various health problems right after birth and later in life too.
- Preeclampsia- It’s a sudden increase in blood pressure of pregnant ladies after the 20th week of pregnancy which might badly affect the mother’s kidneys, liver and brain.
- C- section- Pregnant women with PCOS are at a higher risk of delivering a baby surgically. This usually takes more time to recover and involves more risks for both the mother and the baby.
- Gestational diabetes- This type of diabetes occurs at the time of pregnancy only. If the female has gestational diabetes in her pregnancy, it is a high risk that she and baby develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Treatments and Medications to get Pregnant with PCOS
PCOS usually makes it difficult for the female to conceive and get pregnant. However, if she does, she may face numerous complications in her pregnancy. Females with PCOS are at a high risk of miscarriage and/or preterm birth (delivery of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy). The female may also develop preeclampsia (an increase in blood pressure of pregnant females after the 20th week of pregnancy) and gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes occurring only during pregnancy, which can increase the risk of the female and the baby to develop type 2 diabetes later in life).
With the advancement in medical science, there are several options that can help the female conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. Ahead are mentioned various treatments and medications which have a high success rate of conceiving with PCOS.
- Fight obesity: Overweight females are at a higher risk of infertility and other reproductive issues and have other complications while trying to get pregnant. A female with PCOS is suggested to consult a gynecologist and maintain healthy body weight as per her BMI ( Body Mass Index ). Losing weight can increase her chances of getting pregnant.
- Inositol: Inositol is a non-prescription dietary supplement that can potentially increase ovulation and regulate periods in females with PCOS. However, some females have reported mild abdominal discomfort with Inositol intake.
- Vitamin D supplements: Vitamin D supplements help to increase and regulate ovulation naturally. They can also aid in regulating abnormal periods when combined with metformin ( a type medication for diabetes 2 patients)
- Metformin and Clomiphene: Metformin is basically medicine for Type 2 diabetes and can help females with PCOS due to insulin resistance. Clomiphene is an oral medication that induces ovulation by blocking the body’s response to estrogen. It is not advised to take these medicines without medical supervision. The female is suggested to always consult a gynecologist before starting these medicines.
- In Vitro Fertilization: In IVF, eggs are retrieved from the female’s ovaries, combined with sperm to form an embryo and then transferred to the uterus. Females who are unable to get pregnant naturally have a high chance of having a baby with this procedure.
- Laparoscopic Ovarian Drill: If medication or other lifestyle changes do not help the female get pregnant, the doctor may suggest a Laparoscopic Ovarian Drill. It is an effective and successful procedure. Females with PCOS usually have a thick outer layer of the ovaries, which can cause more testosterone production. The procedure of ovarian drilling breaks through the thick outer layer of the ovaries and lowers the amount of testosterone produced by the ovaries. The procedure can help the ovaries release egg every month and have regular menstrual cycles, which make it easier to get pregnant.
Also Read: Ayurveda Remedy For PCOS Symptoms
Pregnancy and PCOS- What to expect?
Since PCOS can increase the risks of the infant’s wellbeing, it is advised that the female manages her symptoms of PCOS to increase her chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. Consult your gynecologist to practice a pregnancy-safe routine, life-cycle, and exercises. A gynecologist recommended regimens can help females with PCOS get pregnant and have a safe, healthy pregnancy.
Trust your doctor and stay hopeful always. Learn and act!