Do You Have PCOS?
PCOS is short for polycystic ovarian syndrome, a common hormonal condition that affects around 5 million American women. However, the actual number could be much higher since millions more are undiagnosed or unaware of PCOS. With PCOS, women tend to produce more androgens, or male hormones, than average. The result is a combination of irregular periods, fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries, or excess facial or body hair. Two or more of these symptoms can warrant a PCOS diagnosis.
PCOS and fertility
Polycystic ovarian syndrome can produce a range of unwanted complications. However, reduced fertility can be one of the most concerning. The imbalance of male to female hormones can prevent mature eggs from being released for fertilization. Studies show that about 72% of women who report PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. At the same time, A PCOS diagnosis does not mean that a woman can no longer get pregnant. Instead, getting pregnant will be more difficult than expected. Luckily, there are some steps women can take before seeking fertility treatment.
Here’s how soon to seek treatment
Before seeking fertility treatments, the doctor will suggest women keep trying to get pregnant. During this time, some fundamental lifestyle changes can help. For starters, women with PCOS tend to have higher BMIs. Start by reducing weight with a healthy diet and exercise plan. Next, manage blood sugar levels, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption. If after 12 months without success, consider fertility treatments. This timeframe reduces to 6 months for women over 35.
Fertility Treatments for PCOS
After 6-12 months of trying, speak with a doctor again for fertility treatment. PCOS treatments can fall under the categories of medication, surgery, or IVF. With medication, the doctor can suggest one of the following:
- Metformin to balance insulin levels.
- Clomiphene citrate can help estrogen levels.
- Birth control pills balance both estrogen and testosterone levels.
- Fertility medications can stimulate the ovaries to produce and release more eggs.
The good news is that around 80% of women with PCOS can successfully ovulate with medication. More than half were able to conceive successfully.
Can surgery help with fertility?
For severe cases, the doctor can suggest surgical procedures to improve the success rate of pregnancy. For instance, ovarian drilling is a laparoscopic surgery to drill holes on the surface of the ovary. The process reduces the thickness of the ovary to stimulate ovulation. A riskier ovarian wedge resection removes a small part of the ovary to encourage ovulation. Today, doctors rarely use wedge resection surgery.
Turning to IVF
If medication or surgery fails, doctors will suggest IVF or in vitro fertilization. For this treatment, the doctor will refer you to a fertility specialist. IVF is the most popular form of reproductive therapy. The fertility clinic will extract eggs and sperm from both parties. The two samples are then combined into a mature embryo. The embryo is then implanted back into the uterus for pregnancy.
With PCOS, pregnancy is possible.
PCOS is a common yet very treatable condition. The chances of getting pregnant are still high, and there’s no need to go straight for IVF. Some lifestyle changes while trying naturally over 6 -12 months should help. However, if pregnancy still fails, seek fertility treatment from a specialist.