What Is PCOS?

PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility, affecting one in ten women of childbearing age. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, and is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women having  difficulty ovulating.[1] PCOS is an endocrine disorder which causes imbalances of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone which leads to the growth of ovarian cysts. Because of the hormonal imbalance and cysts PCOS can cause issues not only with the menstrual cycle  and fertility but also cardiac function and appearance. Women with PCOS are also at a greater risk of developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease.  


PCOS comes with many symptoms including irregular periods and infrequent ovulation. Fertility rates among women with PCOS can be dependent on factors such as age and weight. PCOS affects the hormonal balance in women and can create excess testosterone production which can lead to hair growth on parts of the body where men usually have hair (called hirsutism). Other symptoms of PCOS include possible skin conditions such as darkening of skin, acne, and skin tags as well as thinning hair and weight problems. Although these symptoms can be very difficult for women to deal with nothing compares with the pain of infertility when one is ready to become a parent. Luckily, there are some treatments that can assist women with PCOS in conceiving.

Possible Treatments

Resolve National Infertility Association indicates that women with PCOS can take medication called clomiphene citrate or clomid to assist them in ovulating while trying to conceive stating that "[of] women with PCOS who take clomid, about 80% will ovulate in response to the medication and 30-40% will become pregnant."[2] As with any medication not all women will respond to clomid and clomiphene; in this case another medication that is recommended by the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago is Femara (Letrozole). The AFCC also indicates that "many physicians will not prescribe letrozole because of concerns from a 2005 report from some Canadian fertility doctors suggesting a possible higher incidence of birth defects in pregnancies from using letrozole."[3] The risks for side effects from taking these fertility treatments medications should be carefully considered before starting treatment with them.

Alternative Treatments

Women who have PCOS and are trying to conceive can also try alternative means to increase their chances for successful conception. The biggest issue with PCOS is insulin resistance and there is a specific diet which can be followed to regulate insulin levels. The diet recommended by Natural Fertility Info aims to control insulin through eating carbohydrates with a low glycemic index "low glycemic index foods are carbohydrates that break down slowly in the body, and don't cause such a dramatic spike and then drop in insulin levels. The glycemic load takes into consideration the amount of the glycemic index food you consumed and how that affects your blood sugar." Regulating insulin spikes and eating organic food with no added hormones could positively impact chances of conception for women with PCOS. Once the diet has been followed for 6-12 months there should be positive impact helping to balance blood sugar levels, maintain hormonal balance, and promoting healthy digestion for improved estrogen metabolism.

Trying to conceive with PCOS can seem a daunting journey of treatments, diets and potential disappointment. Conceiving with PCOS is very possible, however it will take more time and effort and can cause extra stress. Staying informed, patient and positive is the best advice on the journey to starting a family with PCOS.

[2] http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/medical-conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-causes-diagnosis-and-treatment.html
[3] http://www.advancedfertility.com/femara-letrozole-fertility.htm
[4] http://natural-fertility-info.com/pcos-fertility-diet

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