Tips to Conceive with PCOS
Been wanting to have children for the longest time but told you are unable to conceive?
Upon my recent marriage, I now have the window of desiring children and planning for it in the upcoming years. With PCOS though, it is a struggle for us to conceive but it doesn’t mean it cannot happen! A recent study showed that PCOS women have many concerns when it comes to fertility and PCOS including whether they can become pregnant and how to prepare for pregnancy.
I have had conversations with two women:
Angelica, who is undergoing natural means and treatment right now in order to increase her chances of getting pregnant, and the other is Susie, who has been successful in having a child. Both of these women have PCOS and they share with me their life stories on the NourishMel Podcast. I’m going to review some of the misconceptions and what it takes to get pregnant with PCOS based on these two episodes.
PCOS & Irregular Periods
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is characterised by both irregular periods and higher levels of androgens. Please do note that on the contrary to most diagnosis, PCOS cannot be diagnosed by the polycystic ovaries found on ultrasound. Dr Briden explains that cysts are normal and the numbers found on the ovaries are because ovulation did not happen i.e. the cysts did not rupture to release eggs.
Higher levels of androgens means higher levels of testosterone in PCOS women and we show through signs of excessive hair growth and acne. Some proponents for higher production of androgens include trauma during our childbirth and high levels of stress hormone cortisol.
In our episodes, Susie suffered from hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), where she did not get her periods due to excessive stress and poor lifestyle options. In addition, she then was diagnosed with PCOS after and thus pregnancy seemed like a lost dream. HA has been shown to cause impairment in women’s fertility and cause anovulatory cycles.
Importance of tracking cycles
Ovulation is the most important part of women’s health because it underpins a significant process that women go through every month. It also is a vital sign that our hormones are in balance. When our hormones are out of balance and ovulation does not occur (whether we know it or not), we get irregular periods, excess amounts of estrogen and can get PMS symptoms attested to a lack of progesterone. Regular ovulation is needed for the ovaries to make testosterone and estrogen for healthy bones and brains. Especially when you are trying to conceive on irregular PCOS periods, it is even more important to track ovulation!
Our fertile window is technically only 6 days a month because our egg only lives for 24 hours and the sperm lives up to three days in the fallopian tubes.
Apps that are great to track cycles include: Kindara, Clue, Glow, Flo and Flo Living. The apps include charting your regular cycles, prenatal supplements, energy levels and mood swings etc. I recently also stumbled across ovulatory tracking bracelets, Daysy Fertility Monitor and Ovusense Fertility Monitor. Tracking ovulation involves tracking
our basal body temperature
When we ovulate, our body temperature rises sharply and thus the reason for monitoring our basal body temperature. Our cervical mucus turns white and creamy during ovulation because it facilitates sperm movement up to the egg. Lastly, our cervix moves when we are ovulating in order to increase access for the sperm to enter so it is a good sign that you are ovulating.
Importance of Sperm Health on Fertility
It takes two to clap so your spouse plays an important role in improving his sperm health too! Shared fertility means that men are always fertile from puberty onwards whilst women are fertile on a cyclical basis.There is a big burden on us females to be the only ones who affect fertility chances but in reality, men have a big role to play too. Susie recommends every couple to make sure they are getting good exercise, sleeping well, taking multivitamins when needed and having a balanced meal of protein, fats, greens and complex carbohydrates.
Having the heart felt conversation with your partner is vital and important too. Angelica stressed that she had a powerful discussion with her husband about the possibility of not having children and whether they would be okay with it. She has received a lot of support, both financial and emotional, from her husband through her search for a naturopath and natural fertility methods.
Foods that boost Fertility
Organ meats (dessicated liver capsules)
Green leafy vegetables that are high in Magnesium, Vitamin B and Folate
Healthy fats like avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds that build our hormones
Seed cycling is a great way to regulate periods and help to boost and support levels of estrogen and progesterone. I discussed and explained the whole seed cycling concept in my other blog post.
Antioxidants like Coq10 and Glutathione are great to improve egg quality
Addressing Blood Sugar
Under-eating can cause the absence of periods which could potential result in HA. Blood sugar levels which are abnormal affects everyone and especially so for PCOS women (up to 70%). Insulin resistance is the biggest link to cause this type of PCOS and increased levels of insulin and glucose can affect the embryo development. Insulin resistance is also associated with weight gain because the body has to make more insulin in order to get the message across to have glucose in the bloodstream picked up.
Level of Exercise to Improve Fertility
This can be a dilemma if you have both PCOS and HA like Susie had.
Women with HA have to reduce their stress levels by reducing the amount of exercise and this can be conflicting because women with PCOS are better off increasing exercise in order to improve insulin sensitivity and muscle mass.
It varies between individuals and I suggest doing hormone tests in order to find out what how your adrenals are and where your stress levels are at. In addition, all it takes is to be conscious and have a balance between both tougher strength trainings and slower paced movements such as tai chi, qigong, breath work or yoga. For example, Angelica shared her backstory of having really painful periods and then going to the gynaecologist and finding out she was suffering from too much stress from running. She was told to stop running so much for marathon training in order to improve her period regularities.
Sleep and its role in fertility
Sleep is underrated as a health tool for resetting the body and priming it for pregnancy. Little is known about how sleep disturbances can impact reproductive capacity, however, our sleep is also linked to melatonin (sleep hormone) and other hormones including prolactin, estrogen, progesterone and thyroid stimulating hormone.
Tips to improve your sleep quality:
Going to bed at the same time everynight
Cool temperatures to facilitate of sleep
Bedtime unwinding routine
Stress plays a huge role on our adrenals, hormonal imbalance and will definitely affect fertility. I recently talked about the link between stress and sex hormone production. When we are stressed, the hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone do not get produced as much as cortisol. Our body is prepared for fight and flight instead of going into a calm and nurturing mode for pregnancy. This can impact period health and thus contribute to infertility. Combating stress include stress journaling and recognising stress triggers, which is a part of my PCOS Weight Loss Program. Other ways involve self care routines like using essential oils, taking an epsom salt bath and yoga or meditation.
Reducing exposure to environmental toxins
Removing toxins from the environment includes revamping skincare and also using more natural household cleaners. I recently switched to more natural skincare products and most of them are organic essential oils that are part of an oil cleansing routine to cleanse my face. Find out which products I switched to in this video. In addition, detoxification through liver health is so important for removal of excess estrogen from the body and I covered the importance of detoxification to help weight loss here.
Who to turn to for help
From Susie’s and Angelica’s experiences, they felt better and more hopeful at their chances of getting pregnant when working with holistic practitioners who are familiar with using natural means and lifestyle changes instead of medications.
The following professionals would be ideal for you to seek out if you need further guidance:
Functional Medicine Doctor
Integrative Fertility Coach
If you need an overview of healing with PCOS, Dr Romm gives a good picture of what PCOS is and the treatments for it.