Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common problem, affecting 5-10% of women worldwide. Symptoms can negatively impact your appearance, comfort, and overall quality of life. In severe cases, it can increase your risk for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. PCOS can also make it more challenging to become pregnant. At The Fertility Institute, we help many PCOS sufferers find a path towards pregnancy. These are some of the PCOS fertility treatment options that could help.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that occurs in women. Typically, a woman’s body produces higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone. This leads to the production of progesterone during ovulation. Progesterone readies the uterus for fertilization of an egg and successful implantation of the embryo.
PCOS causes complex changes in a woman’s hormonal glands, which can affect ovulation. With PCOS, the body produces an abundance of male sex hormones, like testosterone. This inhibits the release of progesterone and disrupts or stops ovulation completely. The hormonal imbalance also prevents the ovaries from releasing mature eggs. In time, the ovaries can enlarge and become covered in small fluid-filled cysts.
Without ovulation, a woman is infertile until her body achieves hormonal balance and a regular ovulation cycle. Even if they do become pregnant, those with PCOS may be at higher risk for pregnancy complications.
Unfortunately, as we discuss in an earlier post, many people who suffer from PCOS struggle to get a diagnosis. A study found that one-third of women with PCOS waited for more than two years, and half of all survey respondents saw three or more health professionals, before getting a diagnosis.
This is an issue as many couples may be struggling to conceive, unaware that PCOS symptoms are leading to their challenges. This syndrome is also more likely to be diagnosed in African American and Hispanic women. Hispanic women, in particular, may suffer from increased severity and rates of symptoms.
Does PCOS always cause infertility?
The good news is no. The better news is that women with PCOS typically have the same number of children as women without PCOS. As we’ll discuss, lifestyle changes and PCOS fertility treatment options have made it possible for the majority of PCOS patients to achieve a successful pregnancy.
Your first task is determining if you have polycystic ovary syndrome. Then, you can find the support you need.
Do I have PCOS?
If you experience an irregular, infrequent, or absent menstrual cycle, it may be a sign of PCOS. Before jumping to any conclusions, however, know that irregular periods can occur from other reasons.
Instead, we recommend tracking your menstrual cycle along with other related symptoms. Many health apps now allow you to do this easily from your smartphone. Make note of any of these symptoms over time:
- Pelvic pain, which may indicate ovarian cysts
- Heavy bleeding or increased discomfort during periods
- Increased presence or thickness of body hair, particularly on the face, chest, or stomach (also known as hirsutism)
- Thinning hair on the head
- Oily or dry skin
- Weight gain, or trouble losing weight
- Skin tags or skin discoloration
- Decreased sex drive
- Mental health issues, such as chronic stress levels, anxiety, or depression
Once you have a clear idea of your symptoms, visit a fertility clinic that has advanced experience diagnosing this condition and providing PCOS fertility treatment options.
While there is no one test to definitively diagnose PCOS, at The Fertility Institute we use an ultrasound to identify the presence of ovarian cysts and a blood test to gauge your hormone levels. Along with your symptom tracking, this can help us confidently diagnose PCOS to begin treatments.
How to treat PCOS
To start, PCOS treatments are largely dependent on your goals. If you’re not planning to get pregnant, birth control medications can help balance hormone levels and decrease symptoms.
Next, whether you’re planning to get pregnant or waiting, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. If you’re trying to manage PCOS symptoms naturally, your doctor will likely recommend the following:
- Losing weight; even though it can be more difficult for PCOS patients, weight loss is an essential way to reduce symptoms
- Eating a PCOS friendly diet, centered on vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains
- Keeping up with routine exercise to better regulate insulin and assist in weight loss
- Actively managing any comorbid conditions, like diabetes
- Considering supplements—like chromium, vitamin D, or inositol—if your doctor has detected deficiencies
Even after taking these steps, you’ll likely need the support of a fertility specialist to get pregnant.
PCOS fertility treatment options that can help
If you’re ready to conceive, many PCOS fertility treatment options can help.
Ovulation-inducing medications can stimulate your ovaries to begin ovulating once more. The most common of these, clomiphene citrate. Other medications can help reduce insulin levels. These also make ovulation-inducing medications more effective and assist in weight loss. Metformin is the most common example. Hormonal therapy may be another option.
Once you begin ovulating, your doctor may discuss fertility treatments. These assisted reproductive techniques can boost your chances of a successful pregnancy.
One of the most common PCOS fertility treatment options is in vitro fertilization or IVF. IVF stimulates ovulation, allowing your doctor to retrieve healthy mature eggs from the ovaries. These eggs are then fertilized and monitored in a laboratory. Viable embryos are placed in your uterus three to five days later. Implantation and embryo development occur just as in a natural pregnancy.
You can learn more about how IVF works here or in the following video
Learn more about PCOS and infertility
If you suspect that you’re suffering from PCOS, don’t hesitate to contact The Fertility Institute. We welcome patients from across Louisiana and our neighboring states. Even if PCOS isn’t present, any issues related to your ovaries or reproductive system is worth diagnosing and discussing.
Our team is here to help you create the family of your dreams. We’ll start with an in-depth consultation and exam, so you can get the diagnosis and treatments you need.
Call or message us to set up your consultation!