For many women with PCOS hoping for a healthy pregnancy, it can often feel like your body is waging a war against you. And that is just a beginning of your struggles. The good news is that PCOS and healthy pregnancy do not have to be mutually exclusive. With proper planning and good self-care, you too can have a healthy pregnancy and enjoy motherhood! But first, let’s understand the risks associated with PCOS and healthy pregnancy.
PCOS And Healthy Pregnancy: What Are The Risks?
Starting a family when you have PCOS can be a challenging time. You may also be worried about how PCOS affects healthy pregnancy. Studies have found that approximately 50-70% of all women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) may have some degree of insulin resistance. This insulin resistance is often also the main cause of concern for PCOS and healthy pregnancy.
A study was done in Norway to determine the impact of insulin resistance on pregnancy complications in PCOS patients. The study found that:
- The frequency of hypertension was significantly elevated in PCOS women (around 11.5% more) compared to controls
- The frequency of pre-eclampsia was significantly elevated only in the insulin resistant PCOS women (around 13.5%) compared to controls. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that is marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
- Gestational diabetes was significantly more frequent in PCOS women (7.7% more) than controls
- Newborns from PCOS pregnancies were significantly more often delivered by Caesarean section than controls (40.3 vs. 27.3%.) Also, these newborns were transferred to neonatal intensive care unit more often than controls (19.2 vs. 9.0%.)
Thus, scientists concluded that the risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes is elevated in PCOS pregnancies. PCOS can also have ramifications for newborns. It also increases the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Published in Oxford Academia, scientists conducted a meta-analysis of pregnancy outcomes in PCOS patients. They found that these women were at an increased risk of pregnancy and neonatal complications. These included:
- High risk of developing gestational diabetes
- High risk of hypertension caused by pregnancy
- Higher risk of pre-eclampsia
- Higher risk of preterm birth
- Higher risk of perinatal mortality (deaths in the first week of life and fetal deaths or stillbirths).
- Newborns have higher risk of being admitted to neonatal intensive care unit
As you can see, there are some serious complications associated with PCOS and healthy pregnancy. To reduce these risks, it’s crucial to get PCOS under control and prepare your body for pregnancy.
PCOS And Healthy Pregnancy: 6 Tips to Prepare Your Body
Diet and lifestyle choices can have a big impact on PCOS and healthy pregnancy, which is why you want to make the right choices.
Start Eating Well
Changing your diet can do wonders for your PCOS and your chances of getting pregnant. Not only will the right PCOS diet help with your PCOS symptoms, it will also keep your body nourished and fuelled when you do conceive.
The right dietary changes can reverse insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances, which lie at the heart of PCOS and cause irregular periods. If you haven’t already, give up on all refined and processed foods and clean up your diet. The ideal diet for PCOS and healthy pregnancy should include more fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, along with lean proteins and healthy fats. Add grass-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds to your diet, but cut back on dairy. We also recommend that you add healthy, natural probiotic foods to your diet.
Increasing your intake of calcium-rich foods will further prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. Don’t worry that your PCOS diet requires you to cut back on dairy; there are plenty of dairy-free sources of calcium to choose from. Eat more of salmon, sardines, kale, bok choy, almonds, figs, tofu, seaweed, oranges, sesame seeds and turnip greens — these are all rich in calcium too.
Regular exercise will prepare your body for pregnancy and also improve insulin sensitivity, according to research. For PCOS and healthy pregnancy, exercise of any kind will be helpful – be it walking, cycling, swimming or yoga. Studies have found that a structured exercise training program (with or without diet interventions) improves fertility in obese PCOS patients with anovulatory infertility. Anovulatory infertility is the inability to conceive due to the absence of ovulation. A trend towards higher pregnancy and cumulative pregnancy rates was detected in the group who exercised regularly.
However, scientific evidence also shows that high intensity and frequency exercises may reduce fertility. Instead, experts recommend moderate regular exercise to boost fertility. In fact, they believe it improves pregnancy rate for those undergoing fertility treatment.
Cardio exercise at a moderate level for 30-45 minutes, 3 times per week should help with PCOS and healthy pregnancy. A bi-weekly 30-minute strength training session is also highly recommended. You can also try yoga once or twice a week.
For individuals who are overweight or obese, achieving and maintaining a modest weight loss may improve fertility. Studies show that weight loss should be considered as the first option for women who are infertile and overweight. Losing weight helped resume spontaneous ovulation, get pregnant, reduced risk of miscarriage as well as perinatal mortality.
Surprising evidence shows that PCOS related pregnancy complications can be more closely linked to the aspiring mother’s weight, instead of being directly linked to PCOS. When scientists compared a group of 66 women with PCOS with PCOS-free women, they found that being overweight increased the risks of PCOS and healthy pregnancy.
Losing weight with PCOS is not always easy, but the right combination of diet and exercise can help you reach your goal weight.
Choose the Right Preconception Supplements
It’s important to take a high-quality prenatal vitamin when you’re trying to pregnant. It’s best to choose one that comes with added folate, choline, and vitamin D. Some other preconception supplements you may want to try are:
- Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 – to improve ovulation and chances of becoming pregnant
- Vitamin D – to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and also improve ovulatory dysfunction, insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism
- Inositol – to help reduce insulin resistance and promote regular menstrual cycles and ovulation.
Always speak to your doctor before taking any supplements, so he/she can direct you on what and how much is safe for you.
Boost Fertility Naturally
Don’t disregard the power of natural supplements and dietary aids in PCOS and healthy pregnancy. A study done at Columbia University found preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cycles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Agnus Castus is a promising herb for aspiring moms, as it can boost fertility and prevent miscarriages. False Unicorn is another rare fertility herb known for its abilities to boost female fertility and restore hormonal balance.
Beat Stress and Get Enough Rest
Believe it or not, sleep has a direct impact on PCOS and healthy pregnancy. Scientific evidence has recognized that sleep disturbances are closely linked to women’s health and well-being, particularly when it comes to periods and pregnancy. Sleep deprivation can disrupt your delicate hormonal balance, resulting in irregular periods and ovulation. This will make getting pregnant that much harder for you. Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night.
So these should be the 6 rules to follow for PCOS and healthy pregnancy. Not only will they ensure a healthy pregnancy despite PCOS, they will also make your journey to motherhood a lot more joyful too.