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Understanding Pregnancy and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

When you are suffering from PCOS you can develop cysts in your ovaries, and these cysts are tiny fluid-filled sacs that produce androgens hormones that interfere with the menstrual cycle. These irregular or missed periods can eventually lead to infertility. Even though the fertility rate decreases drastically for women with PCOS, sometimes they can conceive naturally if they are under 35 years of age, keeping in mind there are no other complications in their or their partner’s health.

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What Is PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that occurs because of a reproductive hormone imbalance that can create ovarian problems. For those who do not suffer from PCOS and have a healthy menstrual cycle, their ovaries release an egg every month during ovulation. When the egg isn’t fertilized, it’s expelled from a woman’s body a couple of weeks later during her period.

But in the case of those who suffer from PCOS this entire process gets disrupted by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg during ovulation. PCOS causes the ovaries to produce an unusually high amount of androgens that are normally only present in small amounts in women. When produced in high levels these androgens trigger menstrual cycle problems and prevent a woman’s body from making enough hormones for ovulation. PCOS can make periods irregular or stop altogether, often making conception more difficult.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Most women start getting affected by PCOS in their late teens and keep experiencing the symptoms throughout their reproductive age. Some of the popular symptoms of PCOS are:

  1. Missed or irregular periods or even prolonged periods.
  2. Hirsutism, which is a prominent PCOS symptom where the woman grows excess body and facial hair.
  3. Frequent and intense acne breakouts.
  4. Thinning of scalp hair and male-pattern baldness.
  5. Sudden and excessive weight gain.
  6. Abnormal growth of skin tags all over the body.
  7. The appearance of dark patches around the neck and armpits.

Its Impact on Getting Pregnant

Most females start to lose their natural fertility around the age of 32 and it keeps declining even more substantially by age 37. But when women have PCOS the hormonal disorders in their body can interfere with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries, even before their 30s. While some females do conceive naturally well into their 40s, women with PCOS need fertility assistance in most cases. Most experts recommend that you seek treatment if you are not pregnant after one year of trying and are under the age of 35.

Risks Women With PCOS May Experience During Pregnancy

Even if women with PCOS do conceive either naturally or through fertility treatments the concerns don’t end there. There are some risks that they may experience during their pregnancy such as:

  • PCOS women have higher chances of having miscarriages and stillbirths.
  • They also can get gestational diabetes, in which their body’s insulin resistance drastically falls during pregnancy.
  • They may also experience preeclampsia, which is a serious condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or even after giving birth which is called postpartum preeclampsia. In this condition your blood pressure increases, and it can cause organs, like the kidneys and liver, to not work normally.
  • One of the major risks that women with PCOS face during pregnancy is mood disorders and mental health issues due to the tremendous stress of the pregnancy.
  • They are also more likely to give birth prematurely and the child may face complications postpartum.

Testing and Diagnosis

Getting tested early and getting proper care and treatment can allow women with PCOS to get pregnant naturally. Tests to monitor your health and the health of the fetus may include:

  • Blood and urine testing — These will be the first things prescribed by your doctor to check your genetic conditions or certain congenital conditions (birth defects).
  • Your doctor may also advise you to get an ultrasonography, which uses sound waves to create images of the fetus to screen for congenital conditions.
  • Apart from that you will be constantly monitored to ensure the fetus is getting enough oxygen. Tests will be done such as conducting a biophysical profile, which monitors their breathing, movements and amniotic fluid using ultrasound, and a non-stress test, which monitors their heart rate.

Treatment Options

Once you are definite that your pregnancy can have certain complications due to your PCOS it is time to determine the treatment plan. With the increasing incidence of high-risk pregnancies in the current times, it is highly recommended to follow a healthy lifestyle. Apart from that there are certain steps you can take to keep your pregnancy risk-free, such as:

  1. Taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid (a type of vitamin B) every day before and during pregnancy. Only with a doctor’s prescription.
  2. Getting your immunizations in time.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight, follow a proper diet and get regular exercise.
  4. Smoking, alcohol or drug consumption should be strictly avoided.
  5. Having prenatal care appointments early on in your pregnancy and visiting a health provider for regularly scheduled appointments throughout the pregnancy should be given prime importance.

Ayurveda and Natural Remedies To Promote a Healthy Pregnancy

If you are someone who relies on natural remedies more than medications or someone who wishes to continue a natural healing routine during pregnancy, along with your doctor’s treatment, here are some Ayurvedic tips for you:

  • Continue eating what your body naturally desires, unless you are allergic to it or your doctor has strictly asked you to avoid it. Maintain a well-balanced diet by including proteins, healthy carbs and fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals.
  • A healthy pregnancy can be ensured if you keep your vata dosha balanced as it controls your nervous system. You can balance your vata dosha by eating fresh, plant-based, whole or sprouted grains and non-processed foods. Also eat warm, freshly cooked foods with olive oil, ghee or coconut oil. And avoid hot and spicy foods, undercooked food and artificial flavours and colours.
  • The three tastes that balance your vata dosha are sweet, sour and salty. Ayurveda says during pregnancy, more emphasis should be given to the sweet taste because it is considered sattvic or wholesome for the baby. This includes fruits and vegetables that are naturally sweet.
  • Drinking warm milk with a teaspoon of ghee twice a day is good for the health of the baby unless the mother is lactose intolerant.
  • There are various Ayurvedic oils like Brahmi oil, coconut oil, castor oil, etc which help in balancing the doshas. But for balancing vata dosha which is in the case of pregnant women with PCOS, a daily massage with sesame oil is very crucial as it calms the sensory nervous system.
  • If you are experiencing morning sickness, you can consume a pinch of roasted cardamom powder every day, or sip on ginger and fennel-infused tea throughout the day.
  • A great way to include exercise in your daily routine during pregnancy is to walk for 30 minutes each day.

What Is The Best Age To Get Pregnant?

As mentioned before a woman's peak reproductive years are between her late teens and late 20s. By the time she reaches 30, her ability to get pregnant naturally starts to decline. This decline happens faster in the case of women with PCOS. By 45, fertility has declined so much that getting pregnant naturally is unlikely.

What To Expect for Postpartum

Postpartum, or post-birth of the child, the mother who has PCOS is more likely to experience heart and psychiatric complications. They can also experience postpartum preeclampsia, congestive heart failure and postpartum depression.

Although there is no definite document to prove the fact that PCOS affects breastfeeding, hormonal imbalances from PCOS can affect milk production. Most studies show that women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy due to PCOS can experience complications during breastfeeding.

Talk to a Professional with Veera

Most mothers avoid or hide any signs of depression and long-lasting feelings of agitation and sadness. And these emotions can get worse and evolve into chronic depression if they're not addressed. If you are experiencing such feelings after giving birth and you feel the condition is getting worse, you can make an appointment with our Veera care managers. Our experienced and professional experts will counsel you through your postpartum journey.

Take Our Online Assessment to Get Started

It can be difficult to navigate PCOS and postpartum symptoms on your own. Sometimes even talking to the closest member of your family about these things is hard, which is why we have devised a quiz that can assess your symptoms. Click here