When you’re navigating the path to parenthood, and it feels like a challenging puzzle month after month, questions might arise: “Is something wrong with me? Why does it seem effortless for everyone else?” It’s essential to recognize that you’re not alone — 10 percent of individuals with female anatomy in the United States face difficulties in getting or staying pregnant.
Unraveling the Complexity of Infertility Causes
Infertility can stem from various factors, ranging from timing issues to more intricate medical conditions. Here, we’ll delve into one of the most prevalent causes: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Understanding PCOS: A Hormonal Puzzle
PCOS, affecting 6 to 12 percent of individuals with ovaries in the US, is a hormonal disorder. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial:
Menstrual Irregularities: PCOS often leads to irregular, infrequent, or prolonged menstrual periods. If your cycle exceeds 35 days, you have fewer than nine periods annually, or your periods are exceptionally heavy and last over a week, PCOS might be a factor.
Androgen Levels: Elevated androgens can result in increased facial and body hair, hair loss on the scalp, or patchy hair loss. Acne breakouts may also occur.
Ovarian “Cysts”: The so-called cysts in PCOS are actually tiny fluid-filled pockets in your ovaries.
Weight Influence: Symptoms can intensify if you’re more than 100 pounds over the normal weight for your height.
PCOS and Its Impact on Fertility
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 70 to 80 percent of those diagnosed with PCOS grapple with infertility. While not everyone with PCOS faces challenges in conceiving, irregular ovulation is a common cause for those who do.
Can You Conceive Naturally with PCOS?
Absolutely! While PCOS may present additional hurdles, it doesn’t make conception impossible. The first step is to determine if you’re ovulating regularly. If so, there’s no reason why you can’t attempt to conceive naturally. If not, regulating ovulation becomes a priority before embarking on the conception journey.
Navigating the PCOS Conception Terrain
Making positive changes to your diet, lifestyle, and physical activity can often regulate ovulation. These changes not only enhance your chances of pregnancy but may also prove beneficial if you require medications or fertility treatments later on.
Track Your Cycles: Monitoring your menstrual cycles is essential. A normal cycle lasts 28 days, with a range of plus or minus seven days. If your cycle deviates from this range, indicating irregularity, it’s crucial information.
Confirm Ovulation: To time intercourse effectively, knowing if and when ovulation occurs is paramount. Charting your basal body temperature or using an ovulation prediction kit can provide valuable insights.
Maintain a Healthy BMI: The ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) for fertility is 20–25. Weight management, whether through loss or gain, can significantly impact pregnancy rates.
Dietary Improvements: A holistic approach to eating, focusing on veggies, fruits, hormone-free meats, and whole grains, can contribute to overall well-being and fertility.
Hydration Matters: Drinking adequate water, between half and two-thirds of your body weight in ounces per day, aids in curbing hunger and promoting healthy skin.
Sugar Awareness: Reducing added sugars and steering clear of sugary drinks can help manage blood sugar levels, crucial for those with PCOS.
Embrace Exercise: Regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes a day, can enhance overall well-being and contribute to regulating ovulation.
As you adopt healthier lifestyle changes, take note of any positive shifts in your PCOS symptoms. If these changes alone don’t regulate ovulation, medications prescribed by your doctor can induce ovulation and balance hormone levels.
Early Pregnancy Considerations with PCOS
Given the commonality of irregular periods in PCOS, distinguishing between a missed period due to pregnancy or PCOS can be tricky. Beyond a missed period, early pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and increased urination may overlap with typical premenstrual signs.
If pregnancy is a possibility and test results are uncertain, a blood test from your doctor can confirm. PCOS pregnancies may pose higher risks, making early collaboration with your OB/GYN essential for planning and managing potential complications.
Remember, no matter the path you’re on, our support is unwavering. Feel free to reach out at any point in your journey. Wishing you the very best!