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Are you experiencing irregular periods, acne, or any unusual developments of facial or body hair? Have you gained a significant amount of weight? It may be symptoms of PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome — a common condition affecting 5-10 percent of women who are of reproductive age.
Being aware of the possibility of PCOS is important for women who are trying to have a baby because this common condition can cause fertility problems. However, we’re here to debunk the myth that women with PCOS can’t conceive. It’s absolutely possible to have a baby with a few lifestyle changes and medical interventions under the direction of your fertility specialist.
So what causes this condition that so many women are dealing with? Simply put, PCOS is an imbalance of hormones in the woman’s body. PCOS is often caused by elevated levels of the male hormone androgen, excess insulin, or inflammation—or it may be just be the luck of the draw when it comes to your inherited genes. These imbalances cause small cystic structures (follicles) to form in the ovaries and interfere with the normal production of eggs, sometimes even stopping ovulation completely.
Fortunately, there are many effective fertility treatments for women with PCOS. Many women will gain a lot of weight because of PCOS (though 1/3 are actually of normal weight or underweight). If you are overweight or struggling with obesity, lifestyle changes to help you lose weight will be the first line of treatment for fertility issues related to PCOS. Losing only 5 percent of your body weight may be enough to restore your regular menstrual cycles and ovulation.
Beyond lifestyle changes, there are also medications you can take to stimulate ovulation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends clomiphene as the primary medication to treat fertility issues in women with PCOS. Another line of treatment is Metformin, a medication typically used to treat diabetes. Taken alone or in conjunction with clomiphene, this prescription drug can help improve ovulation. Letrozole and Gonadotropins are other options for ovulation stimulation medication.
If you are taking ovulation stimulation medication, you may also combine timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination (IUI or artificial insemination) to help you get pregnant. If this is not successful, then your fertility specialist may recommend IVF treatment. Consult a fertility specialist today to understand what your treatment options are for PCOS and the success rates for each treatment.
Remember, having PCOS does not mean you won’t be able to conceive—you may just need a little assistance in growing your family. That’s where we come in! Get in touch with an experienced, compassionate fertility specialist at the Alabama Center for Reproductive Medicine today. Schedule a consultation by calling 205-315-6951.