Fertility Care for Patients with PCOS
One common cause of infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. This condition has a variety of hormonal effects, and women who have it may experience infertility as well as other health effects. Fortunately, treatment is available, and can help women with PCOS get pregnant and improve their general health.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
The hallmark of PCOS is the presence of multiple fluid collections, or “cysts,” on the ovaries. Women with this condition have irregular periods, or sometimes they don’t menstruate at all. This is an indication that ovulation is also irregular or absent in these women.
There are also a variety of hormonal effects that are common in women with PCOS. These women may have a significant amount of acne, and often they also have hair growth on the face. These two symptoms are typically very bothersome, and many of these women have struggled with these for years; a diagnosis of PCOS may be a relief, because it finally provides answers.
Many PCOS patients are also overweight, sometimes to a very significant degree. This puts them at higher risk for other health problems, especially diabetes.
Can PCOS be treated?
There are several different ways to treat PCOS, and the treatment chosen depends on the goal. The first step in any treatment plan is for the patient to work toward a healthier lifestyle and losing some of the excess weight. This can make a huge difference in symptoms, and may make the difference between being infertile and conceiving naturally. You don’t have to become thin to conceive; losing just 10% of your body weight (which would only be 20 pounds for a woman starting at 200 pounds) might be enough. Any progress you make will benefit you.
PCOS patients who aren’t trying to conceive are often given birth control pills to help regulate their hormones. This can also work for our patients trying to conceive; we will give them a period of time on birth control pills prior to starting fertility therapy. Doing this can help them respond and ovulate effectively in response to the medications. We have a variety of other options that can help our infertile PCOS patients to conceive.
Clomiphene citrate (Clomid) is an oral medication that’s used to induce ovulation. This can be successful in many patients who have PCOS and are ovulating irregularly or not ovulating at all. Usually, this is the first treatment that we try for our PCOS patients at our fertility clinic near Mesa.
Metformin is an oral diabetes medication that often benefits PCOS patients. It not only regulates blood sugar, but can also help these patients ovulate and can regulate the menstrual cycle. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why metformin does this, but it works in many patients. Metformin can be used along with Clomid to help induce ovulation, and is sometimes successful alone as a PCOS treatment.
If the oral medications aren’t successful, another possibility is injectable hormonal fertility medications. There are also other medications that can be tried to help induce ovulation in patients with PCOS.
Will a pregnancy in a PCOS patient be healthy?
Some studies have reported an increased risk of miscarriage in women with PCOS, while others have not. Sometimes, treatment may be recommended in the first trimester to help decrease the risk of miscarriage. Once you’re pregnant, you will work with your obstetrician to make a plan for keeping your pregnancy healthy.
PCOS patients are also at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, and many have diabetes even before pregnancy. It’s important to treat diabetes in any pregnant woman, to prevent major complications to the baby. You’ll need to carefully follow a meal plan to keep your blood sugar stable; a nutritionist can help you learn all you need to know about eating with diabetes. You might also need medication during your pregnancy to help control your blood sugar.
If you have PCOS, you can carry a pregnancy and have a healthy baby. It just takes a little extra care. The benefits will show in your health and the health of your child.