Living with PCOS is a struggle. Getting pregnant with PCOS may be even more harrowing. How does PCOS affect your fertility? What is the relationship between PCOS and pregnancy? Got so many questions on your mind? Find all your answers here!
Does PCOS Affect Pregnancy?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce more than the normal amount of male hormones called androgens, which are usually present in a lesser amount in females.
As a result, the ovaries are unable to release eggs (ovulation), which causes irregular menstrual cycles. Irregular ovulation can also cause fertility problems.
So yes, if you have PCOS it can be more difficult for you to conceive as compared to women without the condition. You are also at a higher risk of developing complications during or after pregnancy.
Can PCOS Patients Get Pregnant?
Yes, PCOS patients can get pregnant although it can take longer and be a more difficult process when compared to pregnancy in women without PCOS.
With effective treatment and lifestyle changes, PCOS can be managed and those with the condition can get pregnant. In some cases, women do not even realise that they have PCOS until they start trying to conceive and face problems. It can also be a challenging task to plan a pregnancy due to irregular ovulation and periods.
Can PCOS Cause Pregnancy Complications?
Yes, PCOS may also cause complications during pregnancy. Some of the complications include:
Women with PCOS are at three times higher risk of having a miscarriage than women without PCOS. Studies suggest that various factors can be responsible for leading to miscarriage. These can be:
- Irregular or longer menstrual cycles may lead to longer exposure of the egg to other hormones that can damage it.
- Insulin resistivity and high insulin levels may lead to poor egg quality.
- High androgen levels may lead to improper implantation causing early pregnancy loss.
Preeclampsia refers to a sudden increase in blood pressure in a pregnant woman after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is a serious health condition that can affect the functioning of several organs such as the liver, kidneys, and brain.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to the severe form of the condition called eclampsia, which can cause seizures, blindness, and even coma. If the pregnant woman experiences severe symptoms, immediate delivery becomes a necessary step to save the lives of both the mother and the baby.
3. Pregnancy-Related High Blood Pressure
This type of high blood pressure may also be referred to as gestational hypertension. It usually occurs in the second half of the pregnancy. If not treated at the right time, consistently high blood pressure can lead to preeclampsia. It can further affect the delivery time for the baby.
4. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetesrefers to a type of diabetes that often develops during the time of pregnancy. This condition usually goes away on its own after the delivery of the baby. However, a woman with gestational diabetes and her child can be at a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
Women with PCOS are more prone to develop gestational diabetes due to increased insulin resistance. Babies born to women with PCOS may be born with a higher weight, or have a preterm birth, low blood sugar, and respiratory issues.
5. Preterm Birth
Preterm birth refers to a situation in which the birth of the baby occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The exact cause behind preterm birth is unknown. However, as per experts, this may be because women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, which causes the need for premature delivery.
6. C-Section or Caesarean Delivery
In women with PCOS, the baby may be a little larger than the expected size for their gestational age. PCOS can also lead to other complications during labour and delivery that makes for the need for a C-section or Caesarean delivery.
Another reason is that vaginal birth may take a longer time for recovery and may pose risks to both mother and her infant, so the surgical procedure for delivery is preferred.
What are the Problems Faced While Taking Home Pregnancy Tests in PCOS?
Women with PCOS often find it difficult to detect pregnancy due to the following problems:
1. Pregnancy Test False Positives
Pregnancy tests are done to detect the presence or absence of the pregnancy hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
Some women with PCOS undertake fertility treatment medications that cause a detectable level of hCG, leading to a false positive, when tested for pregnancy. Since women with PCOS are more prone to early miscarriage, you may initially test positive and later experience a negative test result.
2. Pregnancy Test False Negatives
Due to the imbalanced hormonal levels in PCOS, it is common for a test to be a false negative, meaning the test does not show you are pregnant when you actually are. Early pregnancy tests often lead to false negatives due to low levels of hCG in the urine, which can make it difficult for the test to detect pregnancy. If you have PCOS, this can happen if you take the test earlier than your ovulation period, likely when you ovulated later.
How to Get Pregnant with PCOS?
PCOS is often left undiagnosed and untreated because many women do not even realise that they have PCOS until they start trying to conceive. Meanwhile, if you and your partner have been trying for a pregnancy for almost a year and are not able to conceive, you should speak to your doctor about it.
Some of the ways that can help you get pregnant with PCOS include:
1. Lifestyle Changes
Adding a few changes to your lifestyle such as managing weight by consuming a healthy balanced diet and exercising daily may help improve your body’s hormonal imbalance. This may further help regulate your menstrual cycles and assist in pregnancy. Yoga can be one of the best ways to relieve stress, which is also a culprit for disturbing the hormonal balance.
2. Anti-Androgen Medication
In PCOS, your body might be producing more sex hormones than normal, mostly higher levels of androgen. Too much androgen makes it hard for your body to be able to conceive. Anti-androgen medications are prescribed by doctors to obstruct the impact of high androgen levels. These medications include Spironolactone, Cyproterone and Flutamide.
3. Ovulation Medication
Ovulation medications such as clomiphene are prescribed to help manage hormonal levels in women with PCOS and help them ovulate. Studies have shown that around 80% of women with PCOS, when treated with clomiphene citrate, were able to ovulate. Half of these women were also able to conceive. It is known as a very effective and old treatment for PCOS in women.
4. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
If your course of treatment with medications and lifestyle changes does not work, your doctor may suggest you undergo In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). In IVF, eggs are removed from the ovaries of a woman and monitored outside the body, in a laboratory. The egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory medium and the resulting embryo is implanted in the woman’s uterus.
If none of the management techniques or treatments is working for you, your doctor may suggest surgery to improve fertility. A surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) is performed to put heat or laser to destroy the tissue that is promoting the production of androgens.
rocedure may lower the levels of testosterone and stimulate the levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which further corrects the balance of your hormones and the functioning of ovaries.
What Precautions to Take During Pregnancy with PCOS?
If you are pregnant and have PCOS, some of the precautions you can take to manage your PCOS and ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy include:
- Keep a track of your vitals such as body weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Avoid consumption of caffeine and alcohol to prevent any disturbance in blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
- Go through regular medical checkups with your doctor to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Women with PCOS have irregular ovulation and periods and may find it more difficult to conceive as compared to women without the condition.
- PCOS also increases the risk of developing complications during or after pregnancy. However, with effective treatment and lifestyle changes, those with PCOS can get pregnant.
- PCOS increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as high chances of miscarriage, preeclampsia (sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy), gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and need for a C-section or Caesarean delivery.
- Some tips that can help you get pregnant in PCOS include incorporating healthy lifestyle changes and prescribed treatments such as anti-androgen medication, ovulation medication, in vitro fertilisation, and surgeries such as laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD).
- If you are pregnant and have PCOS, keep a track of your body weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, avoid consumption of caffeine and alcohol, and go through regular medical checkups to prevent pregnancy-related complications.
- Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides 360º care.
PCOS itself may not get worse during pregnancy but it can increase the risk of certain complications and make certain existing conditions worse during pregnancy. For instance, if you have an existing hypertension condition, it becomes more crucial to control your blood pressure to avoid complications such as preeclampsia, which further may even lead to eclampsia, a life-threatening condition for both the mother and the baby.
No, pregnancy does not usually make PCOS better. The hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy may change the way PCOS presents in the body. Some of the symptoms of PCOS, such as hormonal imbalance and associated weight gain, can return and even become worse after pregnancy. Being pregnant and giving birth does not mean that PCOS has gone away.
Yes, pregnancies with PCOS can be highly risky due to the risks of complications associated with PCOS such as miscarriage or an early loss of pregnancy. During pregnancy, you are at a high risk of developing health issues such as preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, etc. which can be harmful to both the mother and the baby.
Yes, if you have had PCOS before getting pregnant, PCOS will likely stay through your pregnancy journey and even after that. Its symptoms might change and vary in intensity during and after the pregnancy.
No, PCOS does not affect the gender of the baby.
Yes, PCOS and pregnancy are not mutually exclusive. Though difficult, you can still get pregnant with PCOS naturally. Incorporate a balanced diet accompanied by lifestyle changes such as maintaining healthy body weight, controlled blood sugar levels, and steady blood pressure.