Does PCOS affect your ability to conceive?



Published: May 26, 2020 7:11:10 pm


pcos, fertility, pregnancy PCOS has a prevalence of nearly 20 per cent with 1 in 5 women being affected by it. (Source: Getty Images)

By Dr Shweta Goswami

In the past few decades, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has emerged as one of the leading and most talked about health issues among women who are in their reproductive phase i.e. in the age group of 16 to 40 years. Speaking of the statistics, the problem affects 1 out of 10 women globally. If we talk about India alone, PCOS has a prevalence of nearly 20 per cent with one in five women being affected by it.

It is advisable that with the current lockdown, it is important to manage your PCOD or PCOS symptoms. PCOS is a problem triggered by elevated levels of the androgen hormones in a female body. Since androgen is mainly a male hormone that plays a vital role in the development of traits like facial and body hair growth, PCOS is likely to induce the same traits in women. Some of the common symptoms that indicate PCOS include:

*Irregular menstrual cycles with a gap of more than 35 to 40 days between two consecutive periods.
*Acne-breakout on the face, chest and back.
*Excessive hair loss and dandruff.
*Dark patches in areas around the neck, groin and under the breasts.
*Persistent mood swings and anxiety.
*Unhealthy weight gain.

Read| How to get pregnant: A gynaecologist’s guide to boosting your fertility

How PCOS affects fertility?

To understand how PCOS affects your ability to conceive, it is very important to first understand these two terms – fertility and ovulation. Fertility refers to the capability to reproduce i.e. to conceive a child naturally, whereas ovulation is a part of the mensuration cycle marked by the monthly release of an ovum (female gamete) from the ovaries. Regular and healthy ovulation is extremely important for female fertility.

Since PCOS interferes with the normal mensuration cycle, it is likely to disrupt the process of ovulation and negatively impact fertility. This happens because the ovaries are not able to release the ovum and even if they do, elevated levels of hormones like testosterone and estrogen affect the egg quality; thereby increasing the chances of infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth. PCOS can also prevent the uterine lining from developing properly, thereby hindering the implantation of the matured egg.

Read| How to calculate your pregnancy in weeks and months

Is it possible to conceive with PCOS?

This is a question that concerns almost every woman who has been detected with PCOS as it is one of the leading causes of female infertility. The problem can be easily tackled by adapting to healthy lifestyle modifications and simple medication.

So, the answer to this question is yes, it is possible to conceive a child even after being detected with PCOS, provided you opt for the treatment and stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Read| The challenges for fertility treatment in India

Here are a few tips that can help you to manage PCOS effectively during this current lockdown:

Keep your weight under check- The bond between obesity and PCOS is inseparable. Approximately 40 to 80 per cent of women suffering from PCOS are either obese or overweight. The reason behind this is that women with PCOS have an increased resistance to insulin owing to which they gain weight very easily and find it quite difficult to get rid of the same. Studies have shown that even 10 per cent weight loss can significantly improve ovulation and fertility. Here is what you need to do:

Whatever goes inside our body has a direct impact on our health. It is very important to have a balanced and healthy diet, making sure that you are not missing out on any important nutrients. You can easily get a personalized diet plan from a dietician which consists of all the haves and have nots. Diet management is very important. Since junk food is not easily available due to the lockdown use this as an opportunity to lose weight by shunning high-calorie foods and going for oats, dalia, and poha.

Take your medication on time- For women who find it rather difficult to lose weight naturally, certain medication may be prescribed for assisting in weight loss by decreasing insulin resistance. However, the medication alone will not be effective if you do not resort to healthy lifestyle changes.

Indulge in physical activities- A sedentary lifestyle promotes obesity. At least 150 minutes of exercise per week is required to keep your weight under check. You can join a gym or perform simple mat exercises at home depending upon your convenience.

Stress management – A happy life is key to a healthy life. Excessive stress and strain can have a very negative impact on your reproductive health by releasing stress hormones as well as triggering problems like stress-eating which eventually lead to obesity.
Maintain a balance between your work and personal life.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

*Indulge in activities that you love to do
*Focus on self-love
*Get enough sleep
*Exercise regularly
*Go out with family and friends

The mainstay of treatment in PCOS, after lifestyle modification is ovulation induction and follicular monitoring, to correct the problem of egg development. Your physician will be able to guide you on the treatment module depending upon the level of PCOD in your body. This is helpful for patients to understand their ovulation cycles before opting for other treatment options like IVF. It is important to note that in certain rare cases women might still find it difficult to conceive after the treatment. Such women can opt for assisted reproduction methods like IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). The procedure is carried out by inducing artificial fertilization of male and female gametes using a combination of medicines, therapies and surgical procedures.

(The author is associate Director, fertility, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Noida.)

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