7 Ways To Improve Fertility With PCOS

7 Ways To Improve Fertility With PCOS

Many women that want to have kids are concerned that they may be infertile because they have irregular periods, and that is a good reason to be worried. In most cases, women that have irregular cycles do have an underlying medical condition that will have an impact on their fertility. And the condition that these women have is called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS.  Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

The signs that a woman may have PCOS is if she has irregular and painful cycles, is overweight or obese, has acne, has thinning hair, facial hair, hair on the arms and toes. Additionally, many women with the condition also suffer from mental health disorders such as depression. The depression may be linked to the actual condition or the depression is due to being frustrated by having the condition.

The condition is caused by an increased level of testosterone in women, and that can inhibit ovulation, and cause other problems. Sometimes there are cysts around the ovaries which looks like a string of pearls, and sometimes women with PCOS do not have cysts.

Signs of PCOS - Women with PCOS

PCOS can mildly affect one woman and can severely affect another. Women with mild PCOS will have irregular cycles but will ovulate occasionally on their own. They may also be overweight and have acne but usually do not have facial hair. Women that are mildly affected by PCOS are usually fertile and don’t necessarily need to be helped by a fertility specialist. However, women that are moderately or severely affected by the disorder will need intervention by a fertility specialist when they want to attempt to get pregnant.

However, in most cases, women with PCOS do successfully conceive, have healthy pregnancies and have healthy children. But there are steps that all women with PCOS must take in order to increase their chances of getting pregnant whether or not they need to get help from a fertility specialist or not.

Let’s look at the 7 ways to increase fertility with PCOS.

Strictly Limit Refined Carbs And Sugar

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a sugary treat once in a while, which means once a week. Even for women with PCOS. However, on a regular basis, women with PCOS need to replace any refined carbs such as white bread, white crackers, white pasta, white rice, and anything made with white flour for whole grain carbs (the same applies to women that do not have the condition that wants to get pregnant because too much consumption of refined carbs still can inhibit ovulation regardless).

Refined carbs quickly turn into sugar and can put a lot of strain on the pancreas which produces insulin. And, if the same refined carbs are eaten day after day, the insulin levels stay up.  And constant increased insulin levels not only inhibit ovulation and cause the menstrual cycle to be irregular, but will keep increasing hunger and will easily cause weight gain.

insulin levels

While the insulin levels are up, the stress hormone, cortisol is also up which has a negative impact on fertility as well. And, the longer the insulin levels stay up in your system, you will be facing insulin resistance. That means the insulin does not do its job properly, and it can lead to diabetes.

In fact, many women with PCOS are insulin resistant and diabetic. The indication of insulin resistance is that there is a lot of abdominal fat. However, the good news is that it can be controlled and reversed. And the first thing to do is to stop eating sugary foods and refined carbs (except for a once a week treat which will not have an impact) and replace refined carbs with complex carbs.

Complex carbs are whole grains (bread, crackers, pasta, etc), brown or grain rice, legumes, most fruits, and vegetables. You need carbs for energy, but the energy provided by complex carbs are slowly released into your bloodstream which will not have an effect on your insulin levels. This way, with this small change, your insulin levels will go down and be able to process the carbs again and it will give you the energy you need.

In fact, this change alone can not only help regulate your cycles but will help you shed some pounds, which brings me to the next point.

Weight Loss

Most women with PCOS are obese and overweight due to many factors such as insulin resistance. And, maybe women with PCOS do have a difficult time with weight loss because they may need extra help with it such as some medication. However, if the right approach to the weight loss regimen is used, then the pounds will shed as long as the thyroid is not an issue.

Overweight and obese women that want to get pregnant need to consult with a dietician that is highly knowledgeable with the fertility friendly diet, and PCOS. This way, they will receive the proper guidance and will know how many calories to consume in order to safely lose weight in a healthy manner. Consuming too few calories will actually end up causing more harm than good, and can even inhibit your weight loss goals due to going into starvation mode.

However, even for women that have PCOS that are not overweight, and women that want to get pregnant even without the condition should still consult with a dietician to get proper guidance on sticking to the fertility diet.

Eat Fertility-Friendly Foods And To Kick Bad Habits

This tip actually applies to all women that want to get pregnant, whether they have PCOS or not. The only difference is that for women that want to lose weight, they need to stick to a reduced but a healthy caloric intake (and for underweight women the same applies other than the fact the caloric intake has to be increased to help with a healthy weight gain).

The first step is to kick out booze, limit caffeine to no more than 200 mg a day which is a one 12 oz cup of coffee, quit doing drugs and quit smoking. If smoking cannot be stopped cold turkey, then the doctor will help wean anyone off in a way that is not stressful.

PCOS fertility diet

The next step is to make sure that water intake is increased, and the minimum amount of water that needs to be consumed is 6 glasses, more like 8 glasses of water. If you are properly hydrated, then that helps the circulation go and helps you shed those pounds as well.

And, the foods to eat are fruits, most vegetables (limit starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, and squash). And be mindful of the fruits eaten as well such as bananas because they have a high sugar content. However, you still want to have one banana a day because there are very important nutrients in a banana that will help strengthen your body and even help to regulate your cycles.

However, you will need to stick to nutrient and mineral dense foods such as lean meats, legumes, and fish with low mercury levels.

In fact, it is very important to consume foods that have protein and essential fatty acids. These fatty acids will not only help with hormone regulation but will keep you full and as counter-intuitive as this sounds, foods that have healthy fats are fat-burning foods. In other words, they are excellent to eat for weight loss and helping to increase fertility.

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Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids are low-mercury fish such as salmon, trout, and most seafood, avocados, peanut butter, nut butter, nuts, eggs, yams, sweet potatoes, and seeds such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds.  

Not to mention, a lot of these foods are rich in zinc, folate, and antioxidants that will help strengthen the reproductive tract, repair damaged cells and tissue, and improve your overall health.

It is best to cut down or even eliminate altogether juices, sodas, and other sugary drinks. This could still keep your insulin levels up even if you improve the rest of your diet. Drinking sugar will immediately go to your pancreas without any prior digestion taking place. That said, sugary drinks can hinder your chances of ovulating even if you are doing the right things otherwise.

Be sure to take folic acid supplements as well as prenatal supplements as well during the time you are preparing your body to get ready to carry a baby. You can also take safe herbal remedies that will help regulate your cycles and ovulation even more.

Take Herbal Remedies

Along with sticking to a fertility-friendly diet whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight, you can even increase your chances of ovulating further by taking herbal remedies that increase fertility. Before just purchasing any of them, you will need to talk to a naturopathic doctor because you want to make sure that these herbs are safe to take.

Women with PCOS use fertility boosting herbs

Some herbs that are known to help increase metabolism, and help regulate hormones are berberine, evening primrose oil, maca root, Ashwagandha, holy basil, turmeric, licorice root, Tribulus Terrestris, and chaste berry.

You can also take extra vitamins that will help improve your hormone levels, help with being at an optimal weight, and will help repair tissues such as Inositol, Chromium, zinc supplements, cod liver oil, and vitamin D and calcium combined.

Fertility blends like ConceiveEasy are also great for boosting your overall fertility levels, lengthening luteal phases, and making cervical mucus more abundant and fertile.

You must also exercise 5 times a day by taking 30-minute brisk walks, be sure to get 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep and find ways to manage stress by taking up meditation, yoga, and unwinding after a long day.  

Once you have implemented these tips, then you will start noticing that not only will your weight end up in an optimal place but your cycles will likely start regulating. Then you will need to start charting your cycles.

Chart Cycles

if your periods are regulating, you will need to chart your cycles by taking your body basal temperature each morning and mark it on a graph for 3 months. You can then get an idea over the 3 month period to see when you are ovulating. You can also check the consistency of your cervical mucus to see if you are close to ovulation. Scant and sticky, and cloudy mucus is not fertile. However, if you end up with abundant cervical mucus that has the consistency of egg whites, then you are entering your fertile window. That is the time to have intercourse.

Different types of cervical mucus for women with PCOS

However, if you have been implementing these changes and your cycles are still not completely regular, then you will need help and have your doctor prescribe you Clomid.

Clomid

Sometimes in more severe cases with PCOS, implementing the strategies discussed above is not enough to help make your system function properly. That said, your doctor will need to prescribe a mild fertility drug clomiphene citrate or Clomid. How to take Clomid is like this – You take it for 5 days, starting on day 2 of your cycle, and it ends on day 7 or you could start it on day 3 and it ends on day 8.

Clomid for fertility for women with PCOS

A week after your last dosage is when you ovulate. Clomid has a high success rate for women that have PCOS, even if they have it on the severe end. The side effects are not overly troublesome. However, sometimes women who have taken Clomid have hot flashes, mood swings, and rarely digestive upsets.

If you still have high insulin levels even after implementing these changes, then your doctor will likely prescribe a diabetic drug called Metformin.

Metformin

Metformin is a diabetic drug that helps lower insulin levels, and can even assist with weight loss if taken while sticking to the fertility-friendly diet and consuming the caloric intake that is right for you. Sometimes Metformin alone has helped women with PCOS get pregnant.

metformin for fertility

And, sometimes Metformin and Clomid are combined to increase the chances of ovulation and regulating the cycle. That said, this combination has been successful for many women with PCOS conceiving.

If these drugs still don’t work then other fertility drugs such as Femara, and gonadotropin drugs will be given in extreme cases.

However, regardless of what route you need to take in order to get pregnant, but the odds are in your favor that you will conceive at some point. Best of luck.

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Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD
Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD | ConceiveEasy
Dr. Prabha Sahgal MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and subspecialty board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Sahgal holds a B.S. degree from MIT in molecular biology and currently serves on the ConceiveEasy board of directors.