“The thing I hate most about PCOS is that it's an umbrella for multiple symptoms that may not actually all belong under the same umbrella, and few doctors are willing to sort out what a PCOS patient should specifically worry about. That and so many of the symptoms have "vanity" elements (like the hirsutism/alopecia) that some docs don't take seriously, not to mention the tummy fat issue being completely misunderstood by physicians taught to push patients to lose weight without necessarily understanding the root cause for that weight. ARGH! Ok, I lied. What I hate most about PCOS is my inability to conceive without help.” – from Curvy Chick Community
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, known as PCOS and also known as PCOD or Polycystic Ovarian Disease, is one of the leading causes of infertility among women. While there is not cure, women with PCOS can do a lot to boost their odds of getting pregnant. About one in ten women have PCOS.
PCOS is a bodywide metabolic disorder characterized by abnormal hormone levels that can result in distressing and sometimes life-threatening problems, including:
- Excessive facial and body hair
- Heart disease
- Uterine cancer
Clomid is often the first step for women with PCOS. Often more successful when combined with metformin, Clomid will help around 4 out of 5 women ovulate, and can greatly increase a woman’s odds of getting pregnant. Around 45% of women with PCOS who use Clomid will be able to conceive within four to six cycles.
Ovarian drilling, a surgical procedure, is sometimes used successfully. Ovarian drilling is an outpatient, laparoscopic procedure that uses a small needle to puncture the cyst. An electric current is then employed to destroy part of the cyst. Research isn’t clear on the risks and benefits, so ask lots of questions before agreeing to this option.
Louis V. DePaolo, Ph.D, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, explains that gonadotropins can also be used to stimulate ovulation. Given as shots, they are more expensive and there are greater chances of multiple births compared to clomiphene. They can be used either with IUI or IVF.
The most common medication given to women with PCOS is Metformin, used to help control blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes. On its own, or with ovulation induction medications, it increases your likelihood of getting pregnant.
There are a number of ways to treat PCOS without medication, including a low-carb diet, supplements and exercise.
PCOS and pregnancy
There is an increased risk of miscarriage with PCOS. There is also an increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia, toxemia) and gestational diabetes. Taking glucophage throughout pregnancy may reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes – talk to your health care provider.
Get Professional Help
Dr. Sam Thatcher, a reproductive endocrinologist and author of PCOS: The Hidden Epidemic, offers these suggestions in finding appropriate medical care. “Patients must ask questions and communicate honestly with their physicians. Confidence in the capacity to live better with a chronic condition is one of the greatest tools in the struggle with PCOS. There may need to be an extensive search to find a doctor that is truly knowledgeable about PCOS. This physician may be a primary care provider, but more often will be a gynecologist, endocrinologist, or reproductive endocrinologist who has experience treating PCOS and is well informed about new research areas.”
Lean on Me
"Once I had chatted to other people about it and talked to my husband about how loads of other couples were having 'impregnation' sex, we began to actually be able to have the odd joke about it, which was a huge breakthrough. Laughing about it broke the tension and made us feel like a couple again, and helped us to have better, less mechanical sex." --Frieda, 34
Colette Harris, in her book, PCOS: A Woman's Guide to Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, explains the importance of getting support from others going through similar struggles. “You can also get information and support from organizations set up especially for people having trouble getting pregnant or coming to terms with the fact that they will not have children, and how this affects every area of life, including partnerships.”