Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have concerns about getting pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common conditions in women struggling with infertility. Women with this condition have higher levels of male hormones called androgens. This hormonal imbalance can interfere with ovulation. Although having PCOS may make getting pregnant more challenging, there are ways women can boost fertility.
High levels of androgens can interfere with healthy ovulation. If a healthy egg is not released during ovulation, then a woman will not be able to get pregnant. Many women who have PCOS are not able to get pregnant without the help of ovulation medications. These medications can help a woman ovulate to get pregnant. Women can work with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist to find the right dose and type of medication that works best.
Many women find that losing just 10% of body weight can improve hormones and ovulation. Even only a 5% reduction in body weight can improve a woman’s menstrual cycle, insulin resistance, and overall fertility. One study found that women who exercised regularly had a 5% lower risk of infertility than those who didn’t exercise at all. However, overexercising can raise levels of inflammation in the body, which is detrimental to fertility. For best results, aim to exercise at moderate intensity 3-5 days per week.
When dealing with infertility, keeping stress at bay can be a challenge. But long-term stress can have a negative impact on hormones and fertility. Too much stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, which may trigger an increase in insulin. People who struggle with feeling stressed may benefit from talk therapy, meditation, exercising, or connecting with loved ones.
If ovulation medications don’t improve fertility, women may benefit from assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Studies have found that women with PCOS who undergo IVF treatment have the same rates of success as women without the condition. Typically, doctors will start with medications and lifestyle changes to boost fertility and will recommend ART as an option if these interventions aren’t successful.
If other treatment options are unsuccessful, there are surgical procedures available for women with PCOS to boost fertility. One surgery called ovarian drilling is a treatment to trigger ovulation. Though ovarian drilling is not always necessary, research has found that up to 50% of women who get ovarian drilling are able to get pregnant within the first year after the surgery.
PCOS affects almost 10% of women in the United States. Though the condition can make pregnancy more complicated, having a baby is not impossible and women should not lose hope. Women with PCOS who want to become pregnant can consult with a healthcare provider for diagnoses and treatment options.