Commonly asked questions about PCOS

Many Choice Moms-in-the-making are dismayed to learn later in the game that they suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which is one of the leading factors of female infertility. PCOS affects approximately 1 in every 10 women, and of those, about 45 percent experience fertility challenges.

Because it is a common topic of discussion on our chat boards, I asked Choice Mom sponsor Laurel Fertility Care to answer the most common questions women have about PCOS.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Though the primary cause of PCOS has yet to be identified, there are a few known reasons. PCOS is caused by a higher level of insulin which can cause higher levels of androgen (a male hormone) and it may be genetic. Women living with PCOS may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Inconsistent or lack of ovulation
  • Numerous cysts on the ovaries
  • Acne
  • Elevated insulin levels
  • Infertility
  • Excess hair on the face and body
  • Thinning of the scalp hair (alopecia)
  • Excess weight (usually around the middle)

What are my treatment options?

Though there isn’t a cure for PCOS, there are treatment options to help improve your fertility success. According to Dr. Collin Smikle, fertility specialist and Reproductive Endocrinologist at Laurel Fertility Care, “we’ve seen patients with PCOS experience the greatest results with in vitro fertilization. They may combine insulin sensitizing agents with ovarian hyper stimulation medications and use progesterone to support the luteal phase of the cycle.

The next best treatment is intrauterine insemination (IUI) combined with ovarian hyper stimulation (most common examples include Clomid, Femara, or Gonadotropin). If you aren’t ready to see a fertility specialist’s care, women with PCOS may also use ovulation predictor kits. This will help you better understand your ovulation cycle and increase your chances of conception. However, those women with very irregular cycles may need to use more than one kit to confirm ovulation.”

How do I know if I’m ready to see a fertility specialist?

Before scheduling am appointment with a fertility specialist, there are questions every woman should be able to answer to save her time and money. According to Dr. Smikle, it’s important for patients to answer the following questions:

  • Are your cycles regular?
  • Have you conceived in the past? If so, what was the result? (Termination? Live birth? Miscarriage? If miscarriage, was it before or after 12 weeks?)
  • How long have you tried to conceive?
  • Do you have any infections?
  • Have you had any gynecological treatment?

How can I treat PCOS fertility problems naturally?

To increase fertility success with PCOS, diet, menstrual pattern, and sexual behaviors can play a significant role. According to doctors at Laurel Fertility Care, beyond the care in a fertility clinic, patients are advised to try the following steps:

  • Limit sugar intake. Many PCOS patients should consume moderate sugar amounts because glucose or insulin resistance may affect their ability to conceive.
  • Stabilize your diet and weight. Trying to gain or lose weight adds extra stress to your body. You want your body as relaxed as possible so that it has the energy to conceive.
  • Record your menstrual pattern. Understanding your menstrual pattern will help you plan for your most fertile days.

For more information on PCOS, visit WebMD or Mayo Clinic.

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