A diagnosis is only as good as the doctor giving it. Even if it’s accurate, if the condition isn’t explained to you in a way you can constructively engage with and understand then it may leave you with more questions than answers. Of the issues raised by a diagnosis of PCOS, fertility is by far the most emotive and important to understand – and rightly so.
Today we’re taking a look at this issue in detail, helping you to understand how polycystic ovary syndrome makes conceiving more difficult and why, along with steps you can take to improve your chances.
Insulin and Androgen
At the heart of PCOS are excesses of two key hormones. Insulin, the chemical which controls how your body deals with sugar begins the process. When PCOS triggers (and what sparks the condition is still unknown) your body begins to produce too much insulin. This causes two things: a feedback loop of insulin resistance, leading to weight gain and more insulin production; and a similar overproduction of androgen.
Between these two stresses on your endocrine system, all the other symptoms of PCOS are caused, from skin discolouration to hirsutism, and of course the impact on your reproductive cycle. Women with PCOS also report heightened instances of depression and anxiety, though it’s not known if it’s biologically linked to the hormone disturbance like the other symptoms or the result of experiencing this chronic condition impacting your mental state.
Specifically, the high levels of Androgen in your body delay the process by which your ovaries mature eggs to be ovulate. It can cause them to mature slowly and be released at unpredictable intervals or even cause your body to skip ovulating in a given cycle.
If you don’t know when you’re going to ovulate, it’s easier to miss out on a chance to get pregnant, and of course if you don’t ovulate at all, you don’t have an opportunity to conceive in that cycle.
A Twofold Response
It’s important to remember that PCOS does not mean infertility: it’s still possible to get pregnant when you have the condition. There are two things you need to do: stimulate your body to ovulate more frequently, and identify those ovulations so you can try to conceive when you stand a better chance of success.
There are fertility drugs you can take, like Clomid, that will help your body ovulate more frequently, but there are other options too. It’s not by any means easy, but if you’re able to lose some of the excess weight you gain as a result of PCOS, it can cause that high level of insulin production to drop, with a consequence lessening of the other symptoms. For many women this is enough to restart regular, spontaneous ovulation in your body.
If you pair this with a basal body temperature based system for tracking your ovulation, to allow you to target your ‘fertile window’, you’ll radically improve your chances of getting pregnant, even despite a PCOS diagnosis.