By Cindy M. P. Duke MD, PhD, FACOG
While PCOS Awareness Month provides an opportunity to draw attention around this condition, it’s important year-round to educate yourself with as much knowledge of this syndrome. PCOS is linked to other diseases such as prediabetes/diabetes and thyroid disease so it can truly impact your overall health. Ensuring you get a proper diagnosis and taking care of your health can decrease your symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed and are trying to conceive, some things I would recommend are to work on trying to lose 5% of your current body weight. There is clear data to support that loss of 5% to 10% body weight improves chances for spontaneous conception. Trying a low carb (not no carb!) diet with some emphasis on plant based and unprocessed foods while avoiding red meat is typically most effective. I also suggest to make sure you eat meals regularly. Starvation is the worst message to send to your brain, if you have PCOS; especially if it is in someone with weight issues.
This doesn’t mean however that if you’re on the thin side that you couldn’t have PCOS. That’s a common misconception. It’s possible to be slender or at a healthy weight but still show signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you have symptoms, like irregular or missed periods, acne, male-pattern baldness, heavy periods, or patches of dark skin; you should speak to your OB/GYN or Reproductive Endocrinologist, especially if you’d like to get pregnant.
When I see a patient dealing with PCOS, I take a holistic approach by addressing not only their common issues, such as lack of ovulation (anovulation), but by seeking to diagnose and treat other underlying and common coexisting conditions. These include depression, thyroid disease, insulin resistance, hypertension, weight gain and even pre diabetes/diabetes. By taking this approach, I not only improve the patient’s chances for achieving a pregnancy but I also improve her chances for a safe pregnancy, a healthy baby and for her long-term health after delivering.
It’s also vital to advocate for yourself. If you don’t feel like your current doctor is addressing your concerns, you should feel comfortable seeking out a second opinion. Some questions you may want to ask, when getting a fertility consultation, include “Do you think I can get pregnant?” This is important because the vast majority of PCOS patients achieve pregnancy with the right treatment. So, if the doctor is saying no, another opinion should be sought.
Other questions I’d recommend asking are, “Are you planning to take a holistic approach to my PCOS disease?” and “What risks do my coexisting conditions (e.g thyroid disease, hypertension, prediabetes/diabetes, sleep apnea) pose to my chances for a safe pregnancy and how can I reduce them (risks) before getting pregnant?” Again, while your reproductive health is important, since PCOS impacts other aspects of your general health, it’s wise to approach your care as an overall lifestyle modification.
In the end, PCOS isn’t able to be cured but with the right care, it is manageable. At NFI, our service model is based on patient-centered healthcare, which allows us to accommodate our patients’ values and preferences along with their medical needs and design a truly individualized care plan for each patient. Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have questions about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or your fertility health.