How Does PCOS Affect Pregnancy?
PCOS- Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complex condition that significantly affects the mental, physical and emotional health conditions of women. Individuals with PCOS suffer from higher-than-normal levels of androgens (AKA male hormones). It is a multifaceted condition with symptoms such as menstrual cycles (irregular menstrual periods), acne, weight gain, male-pattern hair loss, facial hair, mood swings - and the list goes on.
PCOS is under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and misrepresented in society— in fact, many women are diagnosed much later in life while some may even go their entire lives without finding out that they suffer from this condition.
PCOS and Conception
Conception with PCOS is more difficult, particularly because individuals with the condition may not be ovulating regularly. PCOS coach and founder of PCOS Club India; Nidhi Singh, finds it important to understand how ovulation works and when exactly you ovulate. Individuals with PCOS may not ovulate while they are missing their periods or they may have delayed ovulation.
The first step towards pregnancy is creating a ‘suitable environment’ in your body to assist it in ovulating regularly. This may include working on reducing stress, staying active, reversing insulin resistance, managing blood sugar levels, having a high-fiber, nutritious diet, consuming anti-inflammatory foods, etc.
Insulin resistance means that your cells have become 'resistant' to insulin, resulting in higher blood glucose levels.
To keep up with all the extra glucose in your blood, the pancreas produces more insulin levels. If left untreated, insulin resistance might put you at a risk for prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Since PCOS is commonly linked with hyperandrogenism and hyperinsulinemia, it's important to pay attention to blood sugar levels, metabolic health, and improving insulin sensitivity. This can be done by modifying your lifestyle.
According to Nidhi, certain supplements such as inositols, (especially Myo-inositols) can help improve insulin sensitivity, egg quality, fatigue, libido, and moods. The treatment plan for PCOS depends on the medical conditions and symptoms that you have and only a healthcare practitioner can offer their expert advice after a thorough analysis.
In order to track ovulation, she says, "The ovulation strips that are available in the market may not work because the LH (luteinizing hormone) in women with PCOS may already be higher. This is why it is recommended to track the chance of ovulation through certain ovulation monitors available in the market or more traditional methods like basal body temperature (BBT) or cervical mucus tracking. Another option that one might find handy is a fertility monitor, which helps women identify their fertile windows. Other factors that affect conception with PCOS and may be worth considering are vaginal dryness and body image issues."
PCOS, Pregnancy, and Precautions
PCOS may be at a higher risk of complications for pregnant women
and may require extra attention from healthcare providers. Post conception, PCOS patients are at a higher absolute risk of experiencing early pregnancy loss. Research has found that the risk of miscarriage in women with PCOS is 3x more than those without PCOS.
PCOS Club India runs a PCOS Jumpstart Program under the guidance of healthcare professionals and experts.
When asked what her primary concerns are while working with PCOS patients in the PCOS Jumpstart Program, Nidhi said, “The chances of miscarriage are higher due to low progesterone levels. There is a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension. These areas are something that we would particularly like to focus on. Plus, a sedentary lifestyle may increase insulin resistance. So, pushing individuals to stay active is crucial!”
Developing gestational diabetes means that your blood sugar levels stay high and as a result, the baby’s body makes more insulin. This means that the baby would be larger than the average in size and it may cause problems during labor and/or delivery. With proper care and careful supervision, most PCOS symptoms can be treated and managed.
Body Weight loss is usually recommended as the first step for people with PCOS who have excess weight or obese women and trying to conceive.
Research has found that epigenetic mechanisms have a role in the inheritance of PCOS and that the intrauterine environment and postnatal environment (including diet, lack of physical activity, etc.) might trigger the epigenetic regulation.
According to a study, lifestyle changes in diet, stress levels, physical activity, quitting alcohol and tobacco consumption, etc. might help alter epigenetic patterns.
It might be true that the current statistics don't give a true picture of the prevalence of PCOS because of the large percentage of PCOS patients who go undiagnosed.
The biggest challenge that we face today is the lack of awareness about PCOS in society, especially in rural areas. Inaccurate information, dangerous home remedies, and myths haunt the market and women often fall prey to such shams.
Most individuals believe that PCOS equals to female infertility or that it means that you can't get pregnant, but this certainly isn't the case.
With early identification, diagnosis and intervention, women can work on healing their bodies holistically and naturally. It makes a monumental impact on their health and pushes them in the right direction of maximizing fertility.
Samia Arshan is a Delhi-based content writer who works at PCOS Club India under the guidance of experts to spread awareness, bust myths, and educate people about PCOS.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.