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Ask the Experts: Can I get pregnant naturally if I have PCOS?

Published on:18 December 2020, 15:53pm IST
More often than not women believe that having PCOS means assisted conception. But can women with PCOS get pregnant on their own? Let’s find out.
Dr Vaishali Joshi
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PCOS and pregnancy: Here’s what you need to know. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

PCOS is a lifestyle disease due to urbanisation, lack of exercise, and consumption of high-calorie fast food.  It is one of the commonest hormonal problems in women across all age groups. Recent data shows that at least three out of 10 women are diagnosed with PCOS.

Typically it presents itself via problems like irregular periods, scanty menstrual flow, acne, excess body hair, weight gain, darkening of skin along with polycystic bulky ovaries (PCOD) on sonography, and hormonal imbalance including high insulin Resistance and excess of male hormones. This can lead to inconsistent and infrequent ovulation or egg formation during each month.

PCOS is usually one of the common causes of subfertility in about 20-25% of couples struggling to have a baby. This may be due to anovulation or may be due to very early pregnancy failure resulting from deficiency of hormone support after conception (also called luteal phase defect).

There is a misconception that having PCOS means you can never get pregnant spontaneously. Usually women with PCOS are recommended to try naturally for a pregnancy for at least 3-6 months. This period can also be efficiently used for making lifestyle changes like including regular exercise in their life and reducing weight. This facilitates natural correction and reversal of hormonal imbalance and spontaneous ovulation and pregnancy.

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The long term treatment of PCOS is weight reduction 

The dietary modification contributes to 70% of weight loss in PCOS patients. It is advisable not to pursue drastic diets that promise fast results in a short period of time. Rather, you must follow professional diet advice. This will help you maintain the achieved weight loss for life. 

Your diet needs to be supported by exercises targeting core body muscles, particularly abdominals, hips, and thighs. Daily exercise like walking, cycling, and/or swimming for 30 to 45 minutes can contribute positively. 

Some medical interventions might help women with PCOS get pregnant

Many women with PCOS may need ovulation induction medicines to produce one healthy good quality egg. This is usually accompanied by tracking of the egg by sonography (called follicular study). This can guide couples for timed intercourse to maximise the conception chances. 

In severe PCOS where there is significantly high male hormones, combinations of these medicines along with hormonal injections are needed to stimulate ovaries to produce one or more eggs. 

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The option of test tube baby or IVF (InVitro Fertilisation) has been proven as a ray of hope for women with PCOS who fail initial treatments. The results of the treatment for achieving pregnancy improve with weight loss and regular exercises.

So, you need not get disheartened and dejected if you have PCOS and are trying to conceive. A woman with PCOS can conceive spontaneously or with the help of medical interventions—but embracing a healthy lifestyle is key, as it not only cures the ailment but also gives a healthy pregnancy outcome.

Dr Vaishali Joshi Dr Vaishali Joshi

Dr Vaishali Joshi is a senior obstetrician and gynaecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai.