by Julie Snyder
As many as five million women in the United States suffer with polycystic ovary syndrome also known as PCOS. This "thief of womanhood" can cause irregular periods, lead to obesity, insulin resistance and depression. It can even rob you of your fertility. Fortunately, most women who are diagnosed with PCOS can go on to have healthy pregnancies. It just takes a little extra effort to make that miracle happen!
While the cause of PCOS is unknown, medical experts know that the syndrome is driven by hormonal imbalance. Women with PCOS make too much androgen, a male hormone that is similar to testosterone. Early on, these higher levels can lead to:
PCOS is also linked to insulin resistance. If PCOS continues unchecked the following symptoms may occur:
Birth control pills are prescribed to help regulate hormones, keep your cycle running normally and keep certain side effects such as acne and hair growth in check. Progesterone-only pills are often will make your cycle more predictable but don't help with the other symptoms.
Diabetes medication, such as metformin, regulate insulin production in the body. When the insulin is control often the hormones will follow suit. These medications have great success but can come with a host of unwanted side effects.
Anti-androgens are prescribed to help with the more extreme cases of hair loss/growth but are not friendly with pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Even with "treatment" PCOS can render a woman infertile. The hormone imbalance often hinders ovulation. Your doctor will try to get your ovaries back in working order. Medications to stimulate ovulation are used first. Clomid, one of the more popular prescribed, has a remarkable success rate. There is a 10-15% per month chance for pregnancy provided the sperm and fallopian tubes are normal) according to the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago.
If the medications fail to induce ovulation, your doctor might suggest an HSG, which is a dye test that checks for blocked fallopian tubes. Whether or not HSG can improve fertility is controversial. Researchers at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine have reported slightly increased pregnancy rates in the first months following an HSG.
While modern medicine can increase your success rates, your overall health remains the most important "drug" in your arsenal. Small changes in your daily life can reduce or eliminate symptoms of PCOS. It's been shown that when overall health was improved, pregnancy occurred naturally! You can improve your chances by:
Avoiding toxins: Eat as much fresh food as possible. Canned and packaged items could contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA.
Exercise is good for everyone! But keeping your body active is essential not only for weight maintenance but for combating depression that often accompanies PCOS.
NO smoking! (duh, right?)
Build a support system.
Follow a low Glycemic menu such as the "Mediterranean Diet." This means you eat lots of vegetables and proteins, fresh fruits, healthy fats, complex carbs and stay away from processed foods.
A PCOS menu is loaded with high fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein and unsaturated fats. It revolves around foods that don't spike insulin levels or irritate the androgen levels in the body. Julie Merrick, author of "Power over PCOS - The 7 Step Solution For Polycystic Ovary Syndrome" shares these tips: