My husband and I decided it was time to have kids after a year of marriage. However, as someone who experiences irregular periods, I made the decision to consult an OB-GYN first in order to assess how easy or how difficult it would be for us to get pregnant. After a recommended ultrasound, it was then that I confirmed that I had PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
I still remember how anxious I felt going back to the doctor after being diagnosed with PCOS and possibly hearing that it would be hopeless, and to face the fact of not having kids. But when I showed her the results, she was still all smiles and just assured me, “Don’t worry. Magagawan ‘yan ng paraan (There’s a way to fix that)!”
And truth be told, a PCOS diagnosis is not the end of your dreams of having children. In fact, my husband and I are now parents to a 2-year old daughter. So while PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility, it’s also good to know that it is treatable.
I’ve sought the help of board-certified OB-GYN, Dr. Anna Isabella B. Flores, MD, DPOGS, to break down PCOS, its symptoms, and how to manage it for an easier path toward the journey to pregnancy.
Dr. Flores says that while the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, it can be attributed to several factors, such as insulin resistance and an increase in male sex hormones or androgens.
Insulin resistance is when the body does not respond to the hormone that lowers blood sugar, causing one to have high blood sugar. On the other hand, high levels of male sex hormones or androgens can increase hair growth on the face and the other parts of the body. These high levels of androgens can also interfere with ovulation or the release of egg cells from the ovary, which causes infertility in those with PCOS.
Find YOUR doctor and work with them.
It’s tempting to play Dr. Google when you suspect you have PCOS and experience any of its symptoms, but of course the best and right way to start is to find a doctor that you can fully trust. After all, you’ll be with them for a long time.
Once you find your doctor, work hand in hand with them so they can help you manage your symptoms and fully assess you in your plans of having children.
PCOS can manifest as different symptoms for different people, so treatment can vary, but Dr. Flores mentions that modifying your lifestyle, including adopting a more active lifestyle, is the first line of treatment in PCOS. Regular exercise and at least 10% of weight loss can already make a significant change in symptoms, such as making periods regular and improving cholesterol and insulin levels.
With this, it’s also important for those with PCOS to take note of their diet. Foods that are high in fiber and those with a low glycemic index, like green vegetables, fruits, and beans, are recommended.
Medications that treat the symptoms come second. “For patients who wish to be pregnant, there are medications used to cause ovulation,” Dr. Flores explains. “Examples of these include oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) to regulate menses, medications that induce ovulation, and drugs that cause sensitivity to insulin.”
Dr. Flores shares that the symptoms of PCOS can cause anxiety and depression. It can be a vicious cycle because stress increases androgen secretion, and therefore, further contribute to the symptoms. While it truly takes some effort, coping with stress is an important part of managing PCOS.
The symptoms of PCOS can’t be treated overnight, so remember not to be too hard on yourself. When we were trying to get pregnant, at some point my husband and I decided not to pressure ourselves and just lift everything up to God. I guess that contributed a lot in taking away the stress off our shoulders.
Just remember, PCOS isn’t the end of it all. Work together with your doctor, live a healthier lifestyle, and listen to your body in order to prepare yourself for the next chapter of possibly being a parent.
Dr. Anna Isabella B. Flores is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and is affiliated with the Metro Antipolo Hospital and Medical Center, Inc.