A common cause of infertility in women, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that interferes with the natural ovulation process (Read more: Normal Menstrual Cycle). Women suffering from PCOS find it quite difficult to get pregnant. However, with certain measures, women can improve their fertility and the chances of conceiving.
Ways to Improve Fertility in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive system disorder that affects women in their reproductive years. In this condition, the ovaries develop multiple small collections of fluids called cysts. As a result, the ovaries increase to abnormally large sizes.
The exact cause of PCOS is not known but certain factors like excessive insulin, genetics, and inflammatory responses are said to play a role in its development. Insulin resistance is another causative factor that can lead to PCOS. The ovaries of women suffering from PCOS do not produce eggs regularly.
The normal ovulation process is, therefore, interrupted. Even if ovulation takes place in women with PCOS, the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) is not prepared enough for implantation and conception frequently fails to take place in these women.
A number of interventions exist for the purpose of enhancing fertility in women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome. However, before moving on to medical therapy, gynecologists recommend adopting certain lifestyle changes in order to improve fertility (Read also: Infertility in Women).
How to Reduce the Damaging Effects of PCOS on Fertility
The lifestyle changes that have been proven to regulate ovulation in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome include
- Weight loss: Obesity and infertility resulting from PCOS are directly correlated. Weight reduction can boost fertility in almost 80% of the women with PCOS.
- Exercise: Regular aerobic exercises can help reduce weight.
- Dietary changes: Decreasing carbohydrate consumption, increasing the intake of lean proteins and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, peanut oil, corn oil etc.), consuming whole grains and avoiding sweet beverages like sugar-loaded juices can help increase the odds of getting pregnant. Foods that are rich in anti-oxidants like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums, green tea etc. also help.
- Vitamin D supplementation: Most of the women with PCOS face Vitamin D deficiency which leads to ovulatory and menstrual irregularities. Supplementation of Vitamin D through diet, supplements and moderate exposure to sunlight can improve fertility. It also increases insulin sensitivity.
- Smoking cessation: cigarette smoking affects also the reproductive system and fertility as well as the entire body.
- Avoid alcohol: an excessive consumption of alcohol will interfere with the reproductive system and fertility as well.
- Relax: Stress is a major risk factor that affects fertility. Avoiding stress by engaging in healthy activities, relaxing exercises and yoga etc. can enhance the chances of conceiving.
IVF, In Vitro Fertilization for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
If lifestyle interventions fail to make a significant impact on fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, the doctors recommend certain medications, including:
- Clomiphene citrate: This drug works by stimulating the ovaries to release the eggs. It is associated with increased chances of having twins or triplets (multiple pregnancies).
- Metformin: By increasing insulin sensitivity, metformin helps in regulation of ovulation in women with PCOS, thereby increasing fertility.
- Letrozole: By slowing down the production of estrogen (the female hormone), Letrozole activates the feedback mechanism that stimulates the production of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), the hormone that is imperative for ovulation.
- Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Analogs: These drugs also work by normalizing the ovulation process.
If none of the above therapies work, assisted conception therapy is used to help the women with PCOS get pregnant. During this process, the sperm and egg are fertilized outside the body under controlled environmental conditions and the fertilized egg is then placed back in the uterus.