Naturopathic Solutions to Infertility in PCOS
Many women with PCOS have difficulty conceiving. In fact, PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in females. Most women with PCOS do not ovulate regularly and therefore often have irregular menstrual cycles (>35 days). In addition, these women often have other hormonal imbalances and increased risk of miscarriage.
The good news is that most women with PCOS CAN get pregnant, and CAN carry to term with the right treatment plan. The key to the right treatment plan is appropriate assessment.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a female metabolic condition that affects the production of hormones. Women are diagnosed with PCOS when they have two of three criteria:
- Anovulation (lack of ovulation) defined as less than ten menstural cycles per year or cycles that are >35 days
- Excess androgens (Testosterone and/or DHEA) causing acne, excess hair growth ad/or male pattern balding.
- Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.
Interestingly, with this criteria, not all women with polycystic ovaries have PCOS and not all women with PCOS have polycystic ovaries.
When it comes to PCOS and fertility what can be done?
Nutrition and Lifestyle:
The simplest and most effective way of improving fertility in women with PCOS is addressing nutrition and lifestyle. Women with PCOS do best with a low glycemic index diet that helps to lower insulin levels. This includes a lot of vegetables, moderate amounts of lean protein, and good healthy fats. As weight decreases, and insulin levels improve, so do androgen levels resulting in more consistent ovulation. Exercise is another effective strategy for achieving this result. Moderate exercise 3-4 times per week enhances the insulin-lowering effect of the diet.
Even lean women with PCOS achieve great results with diet and exercise.
Since there is so much variation in signs, symptoms and hormonal profile of women with PCOS, there can be a lot of variations in supplementation plans. However, there is no doubt that, when dealing with fertility, there are a couple of important ones that apply to most!
Inositol has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and improve ovulation rates. In addition, it is also associated with improved egg quality. All of this means increased pregnancy rates; which applies to women who are trying to get pregnant on their own and those undergoing IVF.
Vitamin D is important for follicle development and therefore healthy ovulation, as well as estrogen production. Low vitamin D status has also been associated with higher insulin levels in women with PCOS. Therefore, testing Vitamin D status in a woman with PCOS is essential for treatment since simple vitamin D supplementation can improve all areas of their hormone imbalance.
There are many other helpful treatment options for women with PCOS, but a complete treatment plan should be determined based on the individual woman. Every woman should be assessed with blood work before a preconception plan is determined. The preconception plan should take into account current hormone status, nutrient status and miscarriage risk.
For appropriate assessment, and to get started on your preconception plan book an appointment! Whether you are already working with a fertility clinic or not Naturopathic support can improve your outcome!
Dr. Lisa Maddalena