Get Pregnant With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: 5 Tips to Try

woman talking to her doctorIf you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you've probably heard it could be tougher to get pregnant. One in 10 women have the condition that can stand in the way of ovulation -- and babymaking.

But just because it's tough doesn't mean you can't get pregnant with PCOS. If you've been diagnosed, here's a look at what the experts say you can do to up your fertility:

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"Slow down" and green up your diet

Though a lower-carb regimen is often thought to help PCOS patients, nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, who leads the Fertility Nutrition Program at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, says slow carb, not no carb, is the way to go.

This means enjoying complex/whole grains and carbs with higher fiber (such as wheat germ, brown rice, lentils, beans, quinoa, steel cut oats) and avoiding refined and processed carbs that get digested very quickly (such as sweets, juice, vending machine snacks, or white bread). "[The latter] choices raise weight gain and diabetes risk and decrease fertility by causing elevated blood glucose and insulin levels," explains Gundell.

You'll also do well to steer clear of flax. "It's an endocrine disruptor and is not safe in pregnancy, as there's some concern over miscarriage in research," notes Gundell.

"Endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen and compete with estrogen," she adds. "Thus, it's best to avoid fermented soy products. Limit soy milk, tofu, and edamame."

Also, avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats (such as hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, and palm oils), as they can contribute to inflammation and irregular ovulation. Replace them with essential, "good" fats (omega-3, monounsaturated, limited polyunsaturated fats) like walnuts, olive oil, almonds, avocado, etc., which can reduce diabetes and cholesterol risk. Choose more Mediterranean-style recipes and plant-based meals, advises Gundell.

All in all, do your best not to skip any meals, as that too can add metabolic stress. And speaking of metabolic stress -- you may be doing this anyway, if you're trying to conceive -- lowering your caffeine intake to less than 150 mg can contribute to hormone balance.

Avoid environmental toxins

Gundell advises avoiding BPA in plastics and cans, not microwaving in plastic, and purchasing tomato products and soups in boxes.

Bump up your workout

"Daily movement and stress reduction techniques are vital for weight management, increasing insulin sensitivity, as well as reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes risk," notes Gundell. PCOS patients are advised to go for walks, play tennis, swim, work out on the elliptical machine, or do other low-impact activities to get their heart rate up and boost calorie burn to ultimately increase fertility.

Reduce stress

"Stress reduction is critical for any patient trying to conceive," notes Jane L. Frederick, medical director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, California.

But chronic stress can be particularly damaging when you have PCOS, as perpetual release of the "stress" hormone cortisol can contribute to elevated blood sugar and worsen insulin resistance, warns Gundell. For this reason, practicing tai chi, yoga, meditation, and simply getting a good night's rest (seven to nine hours is ideal) is essential to combating the condition.

More from The Stir: Trying to Conceive: Separating Facts From Fiction

Try medicine

If lifestyle factors don't seem to be helping on their own, women can speak with their health care provider about extra pharmaceutical support. "Oftentimes, a drug called metformin can help with the insulin resistant and obese patient," says Frederick. Metformin works by decreasing the level of androgens produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands and also helps the body use insulin.

Have you battled PCOS while trying to conceive? What has helped and what hasn't?

 

Image via iStock/AlexRaths

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