PCOS and pregnancy - this is perhaps one of the most discussed topics among women who are trying to get pregnant. While there is an increased awareness about the same, many women may not notice that they have it till they try to conceive. While PCOS can cause complications in conceiving, pregnancy and childbirth, it is now possible to treat the symptoms and conceive and deliver babies safely with the right steps and doctor’s suggestions. In order to fully understand the complications and treatment, let us understand the disease and why it happens.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal disbalance in women who are of reproductive age. In this condition, the ovaries of the woman may become enlarged and they may develop numerous harmless fluid filled sacs (follicles). These follicles are underdeveloped sacs which are meant for developing eggs - when you have PCOS, these follicles fail to release the matured eggs.
Common symptoms of PCOS
PCOS is very common in recent days and affects many women. While these symptoms can be treated, some women do not even face any of the symptoms, thus it may go undiagnosed. The symptoms of PCOS can get worse if one is overweight or obese. Here are some symptoms of PCOS that you can notice:
● Irregular periods or no periods at all
● Excessive pain during periods accompanied with heavy flow
● Excess male hormones or androgen that can cause hirsutism i.e. growth of hair on the face, back, chest or butt
● Oily skin and breakouts like acne
● Thinning of hair or hair loss resulting in male pattern baldness
● Excessive weight gain
● Difficulty in conceiving
● Pain in the pelvic area
● Anxiety and depression
How to manage PCOS
While PCOS cannot be fully cured, the symptoms can be treated to make them more manageable and even aid in getting pregnant. In order to understand how to manage PCOS, it’s important to understand the causes of the same.
PCOS is caused by excessive male hormone or androgen, which can also be triggered by excess insulin production, the hormone responsible for maintaining blood sugar levels. Many women with PCOS are insulin resistant, meaning that their body produces more of it, thus worsening the condition. PCOS can also be hereditary and aggravates with increased weight gain. Some ways to manage PCOS are as below:
● Eating a healthy and balanced diet
● Losing weight
● Cutting down on or avoiding smoking and alcohol
● Hormonal medications (like birth control pills) that help regulate hormone levels
● Laparoscopic ovarian drilling - a simple surgical procedure that uses heat or laser to destroy the tissues that produce the male hormones like testosterones
Pregnancy complications in PCOS
While many women do successfully become pregnant, with some lifestyle changes, there are others who may struggle more. PCOS generally decreases the chances of conception as the increased levels of male hormones deter the maturation and release of eggs. PCOS also poses other threats to pregnant women like gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature birth and high blood pressure. Women with high blood pressure are also at the risk of developing other diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and more. All these collectively can negatively impact you or your baby. With PCOS, women also may need to deliver via C-section.
However, not all hope is lost if you have PCOS and want to have a baby. With the advent of modern technology, it is now possible to safely conceive and carry your baby to term. The first important step in this regard is to do a full body checkup to understand the present condition. As many women do not have symptoms, it’s best to ask your doctor about PCOS if you’re having trouble conceiving or have family members who suffer from the same. It may be possible that you have PCOS without symptoms or may be experiencing other things that affect fertility. Depending on the condition, your doctor may suggest a few things to successfully conceive. These can include the following:
● Losing weight - weight loss (even 5-10%) has shown to drastically increase the chances of conceiving and also managing the symptoms of PCOS
● Medications - if the above two fail, your doctor can put you on some fertility medications to increase your chances at conceiving naturally
● If medications fail, you can always consult doctors at fertility clinics to explore options like IVF
PCOS in women is nowadays more common than ever which has in turn led to more knowledge about the same. While this was relatively much less talked about in the previous generations, it is now a common term and one that women are mostly aware about. All this information and knowledge has also led to increased research and studies on the same. This has enabled women with PCOS to lead relatively normal lives, where they are able to conceive and deliver safely and also manage the symptoms of PCOS.
What happens to PCOS during pregnancy?
PCOS is not a fully treatable disease and thus doesn’t fully go away. However, with some lifestyle changes and medications, one can manage the symptoms well. During pregnancy, it’s best to keep a close eye on your health due to health risks of PCOS and pregnancy. Follow the doctor’s advice and stay healthy to minimize the effects of PCOS on pregnancy.
How does PCOS affect early pregnancy?
PCOS causes many diseases in women like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol etc. which in turn can affect the unborn child. Women with PCOS are also at a higher risk of miscarriage but with the proper knowledge, precautions and doctor’s guidance it is possible to have safe pregnancy and delivery even with PCOS.
Can PCOS cause birth defects?
While studies do not offer a conclusive result on whether PCOS causes birth defects, the other symptoms and side effects of PCOS can negatively impact your or your child’s health during childbirth. Thus it’s best to know more about PCOS and follow all the doctor’s suggestions on the same.
What is the success rate of pregnancy with PCOS?
While many women struggle to get pregnant with PCOS, most women are able to do so with some lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding smoking and alcohol and consulting doctors for other changes and medication.
What happens if PCOS is left untreated?
If left untreated, PCOS can worsen the other symptoms thus leading to poor health and increased health risks caused by high blood pressure and cholesterol (which in turn affect cardiovascular health), diabetes, sleep apnea etc.