Can you get pregnant with PCOS?
The question on the lips of so many Australian women today is can you get pregnant with PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, affects up to 20% of Australian women and can cause great distress to many couples wishing to fall pregnant.
PCOS is mainly a disease of the hormones, and not so much the ovaries themselves. If the hormone levels associated with PCOS can be brought down or controlled, the ovaries may be able to resume functioning normally.
Each month, we see numerous women seeking acupuncture at our Melbourne Chinese medicine clinic, who are wondering if they can still get pregnant with PCOS.
These women are often seriously worried they will not be able to fall pregnant, as they have often been told by their primary healthcare provider that it will be very difficult to get pregnant fast with PCOS without using fertility drugs.
What’s happening in your body with polycystic ovarian syndrome?
So there are essentially two types of PCOS disorders, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (the syndrome PCOS, with associated signs and symptoms), and just CO (Cystic Ovaries, without the other signs and symptoms). We will be focusing on PCOS in this article.
It is important to note that some women may only have a few, but not all, of the health issues normally associated with PCOS.
It is also important to note that you are not growing cysts or tumors (we tend to associate the word cyst with something malignant and scary!). When an ovary is polycystic, it simply means that growing follicles that are trying to ‘pop’ out of the ovary to meet a sperm and essentially make a baby, are not being ejected from the ovary, and are building up inside.
These follicles are not growing properly and are not getting the hormonal messages to be released at the right time; therefore, you are not ovulating when you are meant to.
What is PCOS (Symptoms)
The symptoms of PCOS include excess hair (hirsutism), scalp hair loss, acne, weight gain, difficulties with fertility, increased anxiety and depression and irregular, heavy or infrequent periods.
Insulin resistance and weight in PCOS:
Your body secretes more than normal levels of insulin to help regulate your blood sugar, and this higher than normal insulin can interfere with the ovaries’ ability to mature eggs and ovulate. This can also lead to extra weight gain and sugar cravings.
Irregular periods in PCOS:
If you have PCOS, your periods may be ‘irregular’ or be not present at all. In some young girls and, PCOS is a cause of periods failing to commence. Normally, the menstrual cycle is 28 days with one ovulation.
An ‘irregular’ period cycle is defined as either:
- Eight or less menstrual cycles per year
- Menstrual cycles are longer than 35 days.
Hair and skin in PCOS:
Excess hair, acne, loss of hair on the head and dark patches of skin
Mood and sleep with PCOS:
Some women experience severe emotional changes including depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration, and have difficulty sleeping.
How polycystic ovarian syndrome affects pregnancy
In PCOS, the extra insulin can promote the production of androgen (like testosterone) hormones in your bloodstream. Both insulin and androgen hormones elevated together can interfere with ovulation.
In addition, luteinizing hormone (LH) which is normally released in a big ‘flush’ during ovulation (an LH surge) doesn’t spike when its meant to. This is because in often in PCOS, LH is high from the beginning for your cycle, and so doesn’t have the chance to spike and encourage the ovaries to ovulate.
Sounds like there is a lot going on, right?
Now you have an idea as to what is going on in the body with PCOS, let’s talk about what you need to do to best manage these wild hormone fluctuations.
What causes polycystic ovarian syndrome?
The cause in Western medicine
In mainstream medicine, the exact cause of PCOS is essentially unknown. There are strong links with family genes, Immediate female relatives (ie daughters or sisters) of women with PCOS have up to a 50% chance of having PCOS.
Also, type 2 diabetes is very common in the families of those with PCOS.
Insulin resistance and lifestyle play a part- if you have a poor diet and are overweight this can be a risk factor for developing PCOS, but you can also develop PCOS if you aren’t overweight.
The cause in Chinese medicine
Fortunately for you, there is a clear cause of PCOS in Chinese medicine, and therefore we can treat it according to the presenting disharmony.
PCOS is seen in Chinese medicine as a deficiency of the kidney energies ( Kidney Yang) and damp and phlegm accumulation. This can also appear with stasis of blood ( painful periods, clots and cramping, or just yuck abdominal pain).
Although this explanation won’t mean much to a lot of people, it is an issue we here at Qi Medicine work with frequently in our clinic and for which we have some very clear treatment protocols.
How do we help our clients diagnosed with cystic ovaries?
We work closely with our clients and are effectively a health coach through the process of reaching optimal health.
Whilst taking a Chinese medicine approach to wellness, we also coach them on diet, lifestyle, and support their emotional wellbeing through the healing journey. It is important to have a health practitioner guiding you through your fertility journey, as sometimes it can be a difficult and confusing road.
Although addressing the underlying cause PCOS can take months with weekly treatment, for many, it is a worthwhile investment into their overall health and wellbeing.
Fertility drugs used
It is very common for your GP or IVF clinics to recommend fertility drugs for PCOS. It is important to know that whilst these drugs may help in some cases, they can have some pretty nasty side effects, and even reduce fertility in some instances (I.e. clomid thinning the uterine lining (1).
Some of the common side effects of fertility drugs:
- Metformin: Lactic acidosis, diarrhea, nausea, nausea and vomiting, vomiting, and flatulence, asthenia, and decreased vitamin b12 serum concentrate.
- Clomid: thinning of the uterine lining, reduction in fertile cervical mucus, abnormal vaginal/uterine bleeding, breast tenderness or discomfort, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
- Letrozole: Hot flashes, hair loss, joint/bone/muscle pain, tiredness, unusual sweating, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping
- Gonadotrophins such as Pregnyl, Puregon, Ovidrel Gonal-F: Mood swings, headaches, breast tenderness, weight gain, vomiting, acne, Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
Tips: How to get pregnant with polycystic ovarian syndrome naturally
Here are some of the top ways you can regulate your ovulation naturally, without the use of fertility drugs.
Improve your diet:
Reduce portion sizes, improve the quality of foods, eliminate processed and junk food, include good fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocado, and limit bread, wheat products, and high GI foods.
There is much research to suggest that regular exercise 3-4 times per week, combined with a good diet, can help to regulate cycle health, and reduce PCOS symptoms.
Reduce to a healthy weight:
As PCOS is associated with poor insulin regulation (insulin helps you break down sugar in your diet) losing weight can help with the symptoms of PCOS, and cycle regulation.
Stress can cause hormonal fluctuations, blood sugar irregularities, and also cause you to go into ‘flight or fight’ mode. When we are stressed, our reproductive system is less likely to be working at optimum, as it perceives our environment as ‘unsafe’.
What about acupuncture?
If you are considering acupuncture for PCOS, here are some of the great effects Chinese medicine can have on your natural fertility:
- Reduce stress leading to imbalanced hormones (which may cause ovarian cysts)
- Reduce the pain associated with irregular periods or no ovulation
- Regulate the stress on the nervous system caused by insulin resistance
- Help alleviate the fatigue and sluggishness associated with PCOS
- Be your health coach to guide you on the best diet and exercise choices for your body
- Educate you on exactly what you need to do to maximise your chances of falling pregnant naturally including charting, male fertility, nutrients, and much more.
So, can you get pregnant with PCOS?
If you are looking to fall pregnant with PCOS without drugs, then helping your body get back into balance with Chinese medicine may be a good option.
At Qi Medicine, our female therapists are highly trained in women’s health and fertility. We understand that infertility with PCOS can be a real struggle and cause a great deal of emotional pain and stress on a relationship. Let us help guide you through the fertility process, and help you be in the best fertility shape possible.
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We provide acupuncture to the North-Western suburbs of Melbourne and are close to Highpoint.
Qi Medicine acupuncture is minutes away from Ascot Vale, Essendon, Avondale Heights, Maribyrnong, and Brunswick West.
We also service many clients with acupuncture and Chinese medicine in Travancore, Flemington, Aberfeldie, Maidstone. Qi Medicine Acupuncture Melbourne is located just 10 km from Melbourne city.