Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects 10-15% of women of reproductive age. Both the reproductive and metabolic systems are impacted by this complex disorder, which can disrupt the fertility of those affected. In fact, approximately 70-80% of those with PCOS struggle with infertility. However, in many cases, fertility can still be achieved with the right treatment.
CAUSES OF INFERTILITY IN PCOS
There are few different reasons one might struggle with infertility with PCOS. Perhaps the most prevalent reason is irregular or absent ovulation. When ovulation is absent or irregular it is difficult to know when you are in the most fertile time in your cycle.
Many women use ovulation strips to detect a spike in Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is usually a good indication that ovulation is coming! However, in women with PCOS, LH can be elevated throughout the entire cycle.
High androgen levels and high insulin in the blood can cause ovulatory dysfunction as well.
We also see poor egg quality and low-grade inflammation impacting women with PCOS in their efforts to conceive.
NATURAL WAYS TO IMPROVE FERTILITY WITH PCOS
Acupuncture can help to stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS. Studies have been conducted using electro-acupuncture, which is the application of a pulsating electrical current to the acupuncture needles. One study demonstrated that women with PCOS receiving this therapy over a period of 3 months demonstrated improved ovulation rates, lowered testosterone and improved metabolic markers. These outcomes all work to improve the likelihood of conception!
Certain herbs and botanicals may be used to support fertility with PCOS. For example, in a randomized control trial with 100 women with PCOS, black cohosh extract was found to be comparably effective to conventional medicines for boosting fertility.
Other herbs commonly used in practice to lower testosterone levels include white peony, licorice, and saw palmetto.
Always speak with your naturopathic doctor before trying any of these herbs. They are powerful medicines and their effects must be monitored by a health care professional.
Diet can be one of the most effective ways to impact your chances of conceiving with PCOS. Eating a diet that supports healthy glucose and insulin levels is the key. High insulin levels can drive testosterone production, especially in the ovaries. This prevents estrogen from rising and ovulation from occurring.
Plenty of healthy fats and vegetables will be important for regulating insulin and glucose levels throughout the day and ensuring your body is getting the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to build and protect a good quality egg.
To get more specific, speak to a holistic nutritionist who can guide you through how to nourish your body with the right foods to stabilize blood glucose levels, promote hormone balance and support quality egg production.
A number of studies now show that mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques can help to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress while improving overall quality of life for women with PCOS.
Additionally, one study proved that yoga and meditation can improve glucose, lipid and insulin levels.
Furthermore, modertate-to-high intensity interval training can be helpful for improving insulin sensitivity.
All of these things, in turn, support women’s fertility with PCOS.
Although it may be disheartening to struggle with fertility and PCOS, know that there are tangible ways that these issues can be managed. Speak with your natural health care team to come up with a comprehensive plan to support your fertility, PCOS or not!
Kamel, H. H. (2013). Role of phyto-oestrogens in ovulation induction in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 168(1), 60–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2012.12.025
Nidhi, R., Padmalatha, V., Nagarathna, R., & Ram, A. (2012). Effect of a yoga program on glucose metabolism and blood lipid levels in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 118(1), 37–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.01.027
Stefanaki, C., Bacopoulou, F., Livadas, S., Kandaraki, A., Karachalios, A., Chrousos, G. P., & Diamanti-Kandarakis, E. (2015). Impact of a mindfulness stress management program on stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Stress, 18(1), 57–66. https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2014.974030
Stener-Victorin, E., Waldenström, U., Tägnfors, U., Lundeberg, T., Lindstedt, G., & Janson, P. O. (2000). Effects of electro-acupuncture on anovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 79(3), 180–188. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10716298