Infertility is probably the most widely known symptom of PCOS. Those of us with PCOS know there is a lot more to this disorder than struggling to get pregnant. This is something that affects us every day! However, it seems like many women silently suffer until they want to get pregnant, and that’s when we’re often diagnosed with PCOS.
So, how does PCOS affect pregnancy? Is it possible to have a healthy pregnancy with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Today, I’ve dedicated my post to fertility and pregnancy! I’ll walk you through the reality of conceiving and carrying a baby with PCOS. Here we go:
How PCOS Affects Pregnancy
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder of women of reproductive age and it can be reversed through lifestyle changes. So, before anyone tells you that you can’t get pregnant with PCOS…listen to this. For some people, PCOS can make it really hard to get pregnant if it goes unmanaged. Irregular periods, hormonal imbalances, and insulin resistance prevents ovulation and contributes to fertility issues. You must change your lifestyle or you can seek fertility treatment in order to conceive. We’ll get to more on this later! Hang tight!
High Blood Pressure
Many women with PCOS struggle with insulin resistance. This is when your body can’t properly process glucose, which raises your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The hike in blood pressure increases a Cyster’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And, when pregnant, it’s even more risky, because your baby is involved!
During pregnancy, high blood pressure (AKA hypertension) can cause preeclampsia. Not only does preeclampsia make you uncomfortable with headaches, vision changes, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and nausea, but it puts your child at risk.
Fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, placenta abruption, organ damage, and cardiovascular disease are just some of the potentially fatal results of preeclampsia on your child. You could also experience HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, which are severe progressions of preeclampsia that are life-threatening for the mother and baby.
During pregnancy, some women can’t produce high enough insulin levels. This causes gestational diabetes. This means, a woman with PCOS is at much higher risk of developing gestational diabetes because her body already can’t use insulin effectively (if insulin resistance wasn’t managed pre-pregnancy), so also having insulin deficiency on top of that puts them at greater risk.
Unfortunately, 50% of the women who get gestational diabetes later develop type 2 diabetes. Additionally, gestational diabetes can cause your baby to be born early or be born very large. Low blood sugar in those newborns is common too. And, unfortunately, these children are likely to develop type 2 diabetes themselves later in life!
Large Birth Weight
As mentioned, high blood pressure causes a large birth weight. This might not seem like a big deal, but large babies increase the risk of birth injury. The infant may not fit through the birth canal, resulting in a c-section birth or other complications. And, once the baby is born, it can have issues with breathing, blood sugar, and jaundice.
Pregnant women with PCOS are also at an increased risk of delivering prematurely. This is because high blood pressure makes it difficult for oxygen and nutrients to get to the baby. When the baby can’t get what it needs to grow, early delivery occurs.
Premature birth could result in neurological disorders, lung disease, dental problems, hearing and vision loss, increased risk of infections, intestinal disorders, cerebral palsy, and more. All around, it’s not good. Blood pressure needs to stay low to keep baby safe and healthy.
Low Apgar Score
Soon after birth, doctors check all the baby’s major vitals and bodily functions. The “Apgar Score” is the result of this test. Apgar is an acronym that represents the five checked categories, which are:
- Appearance (skin color)
- Pulse (heart rate)
- Grimace response (reflexes)
- Activity (muscle tone)
- Respiration (breathing rate and effort).
Women with PCOS are more likely to give birth to babies with a low Apgar score. This can obviously be an indication of current or future complications during pregnancy. Many of these low scores are due to respiratory issues.
Pass on PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If PCOS goes unmanaged, it may be passed on through pregnancy. However, this is all the more reason to learn how to thrive with PCOS now. Blaze the trail today, so you can guide your daughter down this path in the future.
Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Miscarriages and stillbirths are the most devastating things a woman could ever experience. You are 50% more likely to have miscarriage or stillbirth if you have PCOS. But, don’t worry, there are lifestyle changes that can significantly improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. We’ll get into that in a moment! Hang tight, girls. A healthy pregnancy is possible.
PCOS Pregnancy Success Rate
There are lots of treatment options that’ll increase your chances of getting pregnant with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). With each step in the fertility treatment journey, you get closer to your parenthood goals! Here are the monthly success rates for each form of fertility treatment:
- Metaform – 2%
- Clomid – 15%
- Femara – 15%
- Injectable gonadotropins – 20%
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – 25%
- In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – 60%
As you can see, you can increase your chances of getting pregnant significantly by pursuing fertility treatments. Before you decide to conceive, I recommend you make some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and take supplements that promote healthy ovulation.
Doing so will make sure your body is in good shape for your growing child! Then, go ahead and see a fertility specialist. Here are ways to relieve PCOS symptoms, increase your chances of getting pregnant, and lower the odds of complications.
What Precautions To Take During Pregnancy With PCOS
Maintain a Healthy Weight
To limit your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, shoulder dystocia, and unplanned c-sections, maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy. Plus, losing weight after pregnancy is hard enough without significant weight gain! Learn more about losing weight with PCOS here.
Eating foods that support great blood sugar control can relieve your PCOS symptoms and reduce your risk of pregnancy complications. Ensure you’re eating enough and often. However, keep carbs low, reduce your fish intake, and cut dairy and gluten altogether.
This is a lifestyle change I recommend even beyond pregnancy! Dairy and gluten can exacerbate PCOS symptoms and make us Cysters feel bloated, fatigued and inflamed.
Regularly and safely exercising can help you maintain your weight, reproductive hormones, and menstrual cycles. This has been known to lower blood pressure and increase your chances of conceiving. Additionally, exercising while pregnant can help with non-PCOS related symptoms too, like backaches, constipation, bloating, swelling, and energy levels!
Keep Stress Low
We all know that stress raises blood pressure, and blood pressure pushes mom and baby into dangerous territory. From preeclampsia to diabetes to heart disease, high blood pressure is NO JOKE. Find ways of managing your stress, especially while pregnant, to keep your baby safe.
Get Good Sleep
You guessed it, not sleeping well can increase your blood pressure. Sleep at least six hours a night (but eight is WAY better). Create a good environment for sleeping too. This will keep your blood pressure low as your body is better able to control stress and metabolic hormones. You may see improvements in weight as well when you start sleeping well!
Take the Right Supplements
It’s hard to get all the nutrients your body needs to thrive (not to mention the nutrients your baby needs). Even when you are really intentional about your food, you may still need folic acid or biotin supplements to get you all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Check out my past blog posts to determine the best supplements and vitamins.
*It’s important to note you should consult your doctor and potentially run blood tests before starting any new supplements while pregnant!
Heavy caffeine consumption can lead to pregnancy complications. If you’re frequently feeling PCOS fatigue, I get that you need something to boost your energy. However, caffeine maybe not be the answer. Some lifestyle and diet changes will do wonders to boost your mood and energy without the side effects of caffeine. Learn more about that here.
Reduce the risk of pregnancy complications by making small life changes that make a big impact!
When you have PCOS, the road to parenthood is long and hard. Ladies, I am here with you. Diet, exercise, and self-care can change your life and help you achieve the life you want most. Start a PCOS diet to maintain a healthy pregnancy and relieve your worst symptoms.
And, don’t forget to join The Cysterhood. There, I’ll teach you exactly how to begin this lifestyle change! Recipes, workouts, accountability sessions, support groups, and more are included in this monthly membership.
If you’re not ready to take the jump, explore our blog and podcast full of free information. Join us, and let’s start healing!