Can I Get Pregnant with PCOS?
Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach
Let’s start by saying that polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition. If you have PCOS, you’re definitely not alone, even though we know it can feel that way sometimes. Guud Woman co-founder Morgane has been very open about her struggles with PCOS, so we know how challenging the diagnosis can be, especially when there are no solutions. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 women struggle with PCOS. The symptoms can vary from woman to woman, but the root cause is a hormonal imbalance and problems with metabolism that can impact overall health and even appearance. Women with PCOS also commonly have fertility problems and getting pregnant can sometimes be difficult. The good news is that fertility problems related to PCOS are treatable and if you have the condition, it is likely that you can still have children - you just may need a little help.
In this post, we’ll talk about PCOS and the symptoms, how it impacts fertility and what you can do if you have PCOS and you're trying for a baby.
What is PCOS?
People with PCOS can have higher levels of male-type hormones called androgens. This can cause lots of different symptoms including:
- Issues with your menstrual cycle like missing or irregular periods. It could also involve super heavy periods.
- Acne: People with PCOS often struggle with acne, even beyond their teenage years.
- Hair growth: Some women with PCOS grow excess facial hair or hair on their arms, chest or even belly. As much as 70% of women with PCOS have excessive hair growth. Of course, you can easily remove hair through different methods or cosmetic procedures like laser hair removal, but too much hair can cause social anxiety and issues with confidence. Some people with PCOS also struggle with thinning hair though this is less common
- Weight gain: PCOS can make it hard to maintain a healthy weight so 40%-80% of people with PCOS are obese
- Cysts: Many people with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. These cysts are not harmful but they can make it harder to get pregnant
- Infertility issues: PCOS is a common cause of infertility issues. In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with ovulation and if you don’t ovulate, or you ovulate irregularly, it can make it harder to get pregnant
Can I Get Pregnant if I have PCOS?
Yes! Having PCOS does not mean you can’t get pregnant, but it can mean that it is a bit more challenging. PCOS is one of the most common, but treatable, causes of infertility issues in women. This is because PCOS interferes with ovulation. Not being able to track when you ovulate makes it hard to predict your “fertile window” to get pregnant. And, if you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant.
Wondering how to calculate your menstrual cycle? It’s easy. Just check out our blog post here. And don’t worry: no math involved!
You may have been told by your doctor that there is nothing you can do about your PCOS symptoms and to simply book another appointment when you are trying for a baby. But we’re here to tell you that there are things you can do to support your cycle, now, even if you’re not ready for a baby just yet.
According to research, diet plays a really important role in managing symptoms of PCOS. When women altered their diets, it helped eliminate some negative symptoms of the condition.
PCOS can cause insulin resistance, so it’s important to add some foods that combat this condition. Foods high in fiber are the key - they help slow down digestion and reduce the effect of sugar on the blood.
Here’s some examples of some high fiber foods to try:
- Veggies like cauliflower and broccoli
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach and other dark leafy goodness
- Beans and lentils
- Sweet potatoes
- Green and red peppers
- Nuts like almonds, pine nuts and walnuts
- Pumpkin and sweet potato
A healthy PCOS diet can also include:
- Lots of natural, unprocessed foods
- Fatty fish like salmon and tune
- Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and coconuts
- Dark chocolate (in moderation! And make sure it’s at least 75% cacao)
You can read more about how your diet impacts symptoms of PCOS in our blog post called PCOS and Food.
Fertility Treatments for PCOS
If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS and want to have a baby, you might need medications to help you get pregnant. Your doctor or gynaecologist can prescribe these, or you may need to talk to a fertility specialist.
There are a few specific drugs you can take to force your body to ovulate (ie: release an egg). This is important because you can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate.
If your PCOS has caused cysts, some doctors may recommend surgery that can help restore ovulation. This surgery is designed to help your body ovulate naturally by removing tissue like cysts that have built up in your ovaries.
And finally, some couples trying for a baby may opt for IVF treatments. This is an option for women with PCOS if medication alone does not help.
To learn more about increasing your chances of getting pregnant with IVF, check out our blog post here: How to Increase Your Chances of Success with IVF.
How Does PCOS Affect a Pregnancy?
If you get pregnant when you have PCOS, first, we want to say congratulations! We know that for many people getting pregnant might have been a challenge, and it might have taken a lot longer than you expected. If you are pregnant and have PCOS, you might be at a higher risk for some pregnancy complications. But try not to worry too much. Talk to your doctor or OB and if you ever feel like something isn’t right, go get you and your baby checked out.
What Can I Do If I Have PCOS?
Just because you have PCOS, doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Quite the opposite. Lifestyle changes, like diet and nutrition, play a big role in managing symptoms, but there are other things you can do too, especially if you’re trying for a baby or currently pregnant.
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you’re obese or overweight, remember that weight loss can lower insulin and androgen levels. It may also help restore ovulation. Of course, a healthy diet and regular activity can help but if you need more help, consider meeting with a registered dietitian.
- Be active: Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, regular physical activity can help you manage your PCOS symptoms and help increase your chances of getting pregnant
- The right food: Ensure that you're getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to support your menstrual health and maintain your fertility. Supplement when you feel your body can use something extra. Look for supplements with folic acid and zinc to prepare your body for motherhuud but also Vitamin D, B6, B12, iron and magnesium can have an added value.
Do you have PCOS? Do you still have questions about what you can do to manage symptoms and improve your chances of conceiving naturally? Talk to our experts. We’re here to help you.