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PCOS & Fertility: Everything you need to know

There can be all kinds of reasons a woman has trouble getting pregnant, but PCOS is all-too-often the culprit. Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age, which adds up to a lot of women. Sure, they’re not all actively trying to conceive, but those who are will find PCOS poses a hurdle. The good news—it’s a hurdle that can be managed. PCOS is one of the most common causes fertility issues in women, but having it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Speak with your medical professional if you feel you have any symptoms. See how supplementing with certain nutrients have been shown to support women with PCOS on the preconception journey.

During this PCOS Awareness month, we’ve got the real deal on PCOS and fertility.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age and can make it harder to become pregnant.
  • PCOS is one of the most common causes of fertility issues in women, but it is considered treatable.
  • Improving chances of conception usually involves lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy weight, medications to regulate ovulation, and potentially IVF and surgery.
  • Supplementing can also help support women with PCOS, particularly with zinc, magnesium, folate, and vitamins D, B12 and B6. 
  • Consult with your medical provider to talk about your symptoms and discuss a protocol that works for you. 

What is PCOS? 

Basically, it’s a hormone imbalance that creates issues in the ovaries. The egg may not develop properly or it may not be released during ovulation. While most women learn that they have PCOS in their 20s or 30s, when they’re trying for a baby, it can affect women at any age after puberty. 

In addition to a bevy of other symptoms, PCOS can cause irregular or skipped periods, which makes it pretty tricky to get pregnant. It can also lead to the development of cysts in the ovaries. While the exact cause of PCOS still isn’t known, experts think there are a few issues at play: 

  • Androgens. All women make these “male hormones” in small amounts, but women with PCOS have more androgens than normal. High levels of androgens can interfere with egg release in the ovaries during a cycle. It can also cause hair growth on the face, chin, or spots where men usually have hair, as well as acne. 
  • Too much insulin. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin, leading to higher insulin blood levels. Women with PCOS who are overweight or obese, don’t get enough exercise, have poor nutritional habits, or have a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk of insulin resistance. 

PCOS & Pregnancy  

If the goal is a baby, PCOS does make things a little harder. Still, it’s considered a treatable in women. Your doctor is a great place to start, and improving your chances of conceiving usually involves the following: 

  • Lifestyle changes. Taking steps to lose weight with regular exercise and a healthy diet can help regulate your period and improve fertility. 
  • Medications to help you ovulate. Your doctor may recommend medicines like Clomid to help you ovulate. Medications that contain a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and a luteinizing hormone (LH) may also be prescribed.  
  • IVF. In-vitro fertilization could be an option if medications don’t work. 
  • Surgery. This is another option for restoring ovulation if other methods aren’t working.

Supplementing with PCOS 

beli-prenatals-supporting-women-PCOS

So what about supplementation? Can the right prenatal vitamin do anything to improve the odds? Actually, yes. Research shows that specific supplementation ingredients can help support women with PCOS, whether they’re hoping to conceive or not. 

  • Vitamin D. Research is linking vitamin D supplementation with an improvement in hormonal function among women with PCOS. The key is appropriate dosing. It’s important to look for a prenatal vitamin that has beneficial amounts of vitamin D—not a token amount that has more marketing clout than any actually benefit to you.  
  • Zinc. Studies show that zinc supplementation in women with PCOS has a positive effect on multiple levels, including those relating to lipid balance and insulin resistance. 
  • Vitamins B6 and B12. These B-vitamins can help reduce inflammation and optimize hormonal balance in women with PCOS. 
  • Magnesium. Studies find that women with magnesium deficiencies are 19 times more likely to have PCOS. Low magnesium levels can make insulin resistance worse, which can affect hormonal balance. 
  • FolateResearch shows that the active form of folate has a beneficial effect on metabolic profiles in women with PCOS. 
  • Collagen Protein. Collagen can help maintain balanced blood sugar, which is key for women with PCOS.

There are other nutrients showing promise, too. InositolNAC and CoQ10 have all been studied for their prospective roles in improving fertility in women with PCOS. 

Here’s the Thing about PCOS 

This condition may be common, but PCOS is still largely a mystery. Finding what helps is very much a process of trial and error, and a team approach can be a big help. In addition to your doctor, working with a dietitian who specializes in fertility can be key for dialing in specific supplements that might help you, in addition to helpful nutrition and lifestyle changes.  

The Bottom Line

PCOS is becoming more common in women, but getting pregnant with PCOS is possible. Speak with your doctor and dietician about what steps and nutrients you can take to support your preconception health.

 

Additional Resources

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