Getting Pregnant With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and getting pregnant is possible, although it may a little bit more difficult for some women. While it can be a challenge, the good news is that there are a number of treatments available from lifestyle changes to seeking the assistance of a fertility expert or reproductive endocrinologist.

Couple consulting with a physician
Troels Graugaard / Vetta / Getty Images

Lifestyle Modification

The first step for getting your body ready for pregnancy starts with diet and lifestyle modifications. If possible, take at least three months to improve your diet and exercise habits before you try to conceive. These changes may help improve the quality of your eggs and ovulation, as well as improve your nutrient status going into pregnancy.

In addition to lifestyle, weight loss can help. Overweight and obese women with PCOS were shown to have a greater chance of becoming pregnant if they lose weight before beginning fertility treatment, according to an analysis of two studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. Weight loss improves insulin and helps to balance out hormones better.

Sometimes metformin, a diabetes medication, is added to the regimen. Because of the link between PCOS and insulin resistance, it is thought that lowering insulin levels can help reduce androgen levels and restore ovulation. Certain dietary supplements including n-acetylcysteine and inositol may also help improve ovulation and egg quality as well as insulin resistance in women with PCOS.

Fertility Assistance

Because PCOS can affect your menstrual cycles by preventing ovulation, sometimes medications are required to help your body ovulate. Regular ovulation is key in helping you get pregnant. Knowing when you ovulate, either naturally or with medication, can help you time intercourse or intrauterine insemination.

Clomid, or clomiphene citrate, is a common medication prescribed by healthcare providers to help women ovulate. Clomid works by helping the ovary recruit an egg which will eventually grow, mature and be released. Newer research, however, is showing good results with using letrozole over Clomid in women with PCOS.

If these medications are not effective, there are other choices. Injectable medications are a widely used tool as well. These types of medications are usually a form of the hormone FSH, the major hormone produced by the body which stimulates the growth of an egg follicle each month. You will need to learn how to give yourself these injections as well as visit your healthcare provider frequently to have your cycle monitored.

Finally, the healthcare provider may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF). During IVF, medication is given to stimulate the ovaries to allow many eggs to grow and mature. Those eggs are removed surgically once mature and allowed to fertilize in the laboratory. Once the embryos grow in the lab for a few days, they are placed back into the uterus in the hopes they implant and cause a pregnancy. This is a much more intensive form of treatment, and not everybody is ready to proceed with that process.

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."