Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects one out of every ten women. It can have a negative effect on women’s menstrual cycles, fertility, hormones, insulin production, circulatory system and appearance. Unfortunately, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, although weight and insulin production may be correlated.
However, if you have PCOS, doctors say not to be discouraged. Dr. Narinder Brar, DO, a Banner Health OBGYN at Arizona Maternity and Women’s Clinic Inc, shared common treatment options for women struggling with PCOS and infertility.
Women with PCOS are often found to have higher than normal insulin levels. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as starchy and sugary foods, can make insulin resistance and weight loss more difficult. Because of this, eating a diet focused high-fiber vegetables, lean protein and anti-inflammatory foods and spices can help aid infertility.
“Even losing 5-10% of your body weight has shown to help in restoration of normal ovulatory cycle and improve the chances of pregnancy. Weight loss also in some instances improve hirsutism, which is male-pattern hair growth on women” Dr. Brar says. “Low carb diets have become popular in PCOS patients. Bariatric surgery is also an option for weight loss. Drugs like metformin can reduce insulin levels.”
Regular exercise has been shown to improve fertility in women with PCOS. So, what type of exercise is most effective a boosting fertility? Dr. Brar says it is less important the type of exercise than how regularly you exercise.
“Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to five times a week, and avoid overdoing it,” Dr. Brar says. “If you stop eating and exercise excessively each day, you still may not get your period. It’s important to have balance.” Diet and exercise are recommended for overweight and obese women. Weight loss can be achieved by using calorie-restricted diet and exercise.
The primary fertility problem with PCOS is the lack of ovulation. If weight loss and exercise changes are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend medication. Dr. Brar also recommends fertility testing to make sure there are no other problems present.
Common medications to induce ovulation are clomiphene and letrozole, or in vitro fertilization is another option. Metformin is also used as an alternative. Letrozole therapy results in higher live birth rates as compared to clomiphene. According to a study, twin pregnancy rates are lower with letrozole as compared with clomiphene.
Some patients may find success with medication that targets insulin, like metformin.
“Different medications can be prescribed to help the ovaries release eggs, but women should be aware they are at an increased risk of getting pregnant with multiples,” Dr. Brar warns.
“If you’re ready to have children, don’t wait,” Dr. Brar says. “Regardless whether you have PCOS or not, the older a woman gets, the harder it is to conceive.” Treatment modalities are available but women should discuss this with their physician.
More women are having children later in life, but with age comes the higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, miscarriages and other health issues. Women with PCOS who are not ready for children may want to consider freezing their eggs by the time they are 35.
For more information about PCOS, speak with your healthcare provider about your fertility options. To find a qualified and experienced OBGYN, visit Banner Health to find a provider near you.