Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that affects millions of women worldwide. One of the most significant challenges for women with PCOS is their increased risk of fertility issues and complications during pregnancy. Therefore, pre-conception care is crucial for women with PCOS, as it can greatly enhance their chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, acne, and weight gain. Women with PCOS often have difficulty conceiving due to their irregular periods and hormone imbalances. In addition, PCOS is associated with an increased risk of miscarriages, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
The Importance of Pre-conception Care
Pre-conception care is a proactive approach to optimize a woman’s health and address potential issues before becoming pregnant. For women with PCOS, pre-conception care is particularly important for the following reasons:
- Regulation of Menstrual Cycles: PCOS often leads to irregular or absent menstrual cycles, making it difficult to predict ovulation. Pre-conception care through life-style changes and correcting hormones imbalances can help regulate these cycles and improving the chances of conceiving naturally.
- Weight Management: 80% of women with PCOS are either overweight or obese, which can negatively impact fertility. Pre-conception care focuses on achieving a healthy weight through diet and exercise, increasing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. Even a 5-10 % of weight loss increases the chance of spontaneous conception by 25%.
- Hormone Balance: Hormonal imbalances are a hallmark of PCOS, mainly thyroid, prolactin, insulin, androgens (male hormones) are those which may need correction before pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of complications and enhance fertility.
- Managing Comorbid Conditions: Many women with PCOS have other health issues such as insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Pre-conception care addresses these conditions, which can become more problematic during pregnancy.
Pre-conception Care Guidelines for Women with PCOS
- Consult a Healthcare Provider: The first step is to consult a healthcare provider with experience in treating PCOS. They can evaluate your condition, recommend tests, and create a personalized pre-conception plan.
- Weight Management: Achieving a healthy weight is crucial for women with PCOS. A healthy diet with intake less than output and regular exercise are essential in achieving and maintaining a healthy BMI.
- Hormone Regulation: Medications such as birth control pills, metformin, or anti- androgen therapy may be prescribed to regulate menstrual cycles and hormones. These treatments will be offered by your healthcare provider, during which period pregnancy should not be attempted as the medication could potentially harm the growing fetus. Your Gynaecologist will let you know more about it.
- Nutritional Support: Consider working with a registered nutritionist to create a dietary plan that supports hormonal balance and fertility. A diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables can be beneficial. Avoiding fried foods, any kind of oils, food with high sugar and fat content should be avoided
- Manage Insulin Resistance: If you have insulin resistance, addressing it through diet and exercise, and sometimes with medications, is essential. Proper insulin management can improve fertility and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Your gynecologist will decide what is the best for you
- Monitor Ovulation: Tracking ovulation is essential for women with PCOS. Ovulation predictor kits can help identify the most fertile days. These kits are simple to use, home kits which work almost like a pregnancy test kit and can help to predict when you are likely to ovulate. Apps on your phone can also guide you in selecting the most probable day of ovulation.
- Supplements: Some women with PCOS may benefit from supplements such as inositol, folic acid, and vitamin D. Always consult your gynaecologlist before starting any supplements.
- Stress Management: Reducing stress through relaxation techniques, yoga, or mindfulness can positively impact fertility.
- Genetic Screening: Depending on your family history and ethnicity, your gynaecologist may recommend genetic screening to assess the risk of hereditary conditions.
- Medication Adjustment: If you are taking medications for other conditions, such as blood pressure or thyroid disorders, consult your gynaecologist to ensure they are safe during pregnancy.
Pre-conception care is an essential step for women with PCOS who want to start a family. By addressing the hormonal and metabolic imbalances associated with PCOS and optimizing overall health, women can increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby. Consulting a gynecologists’ experienced in PCOS is the first step to developing a personalized plan that addresses individual needs. With proper care and preparation, women with PCOS can look forward to a successful and fulfilling pregnancy journey just like any other woman!