For a condition that’s so widespread, PCOS is not well understood. The official NHS figures estimate that as many of 20% of women in the UK could be affected (that’s one in five of the female population!), but female reproductive health problems are notoriously poorly communicated by doctors, especially in the short time available in the average appointment.
This can leave many people feeling like a diagnosis of PCOS is the same as being told you’re infertile, leading many to give up hope of having children when really there is plenty of cause for hope. Today we’re looking at how PCOS affects your fertility, and what you can do to improve your chances!
PCOS and Ovulation
PCOS is an endocrine condition, which means it’s driven by your hormones, specifically, excesses of Insulin, Oestrogen and Testosterone. The conditions begins with your body producing too much Insulin, which in turn stimulates your body to produce more Oestrogen and Testosterone than normal. It’s these hormones that affect your menstrual cycle, leading to the fertility effects of PCOS.
When PCOS affects your menstrual cycle it interferes with the way eggs are matured in your ovaries: normally it will take between 11 ad 27 days for an egg to grow to maturity in a sac in the ovary (a ‘follicle’ leading to the name of this part of your menstrual cycle, the ‘Follicular Phase’). With PCOS, it takes longer and longer for that egg to grow and mature, and your body cannot necessarily register its progress, due to the hormones of PCOS interfering with its usual pathways. This means you ovlate infrequently, irregularly, and in some cases not at all.
Getting Pregnant with PCOS
There are two important steps to take when you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS: to encourage your body to ovulate more frequently, and to track when you ovulate so you’re ready to try and conceive when you’re at peak fertility.
You can try to stimulate ovulation by changing your diet: a low GI diet can help to regulate your Insulin levels, reducing the intensity of PCOS, and restoring a more normal ovulatory pattern. You can then use a fertility device to track when you’re ovulating. The best ones can actually give you a prediction in advance of when your fertile window will be, letting you target the best possible time and improve your chances of conceiving when you want to.