Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can be a complex issue to understand. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, there are some risks and some challenges for you, but there are also some things you can do to help.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome usually affects a woman’s hormones; she ends up producing too many male sex hormones (androgens), which can cause her to take on some male physical traits, like male pattern baldness, or growing facial hair. Other characteristics of PCOS are acne or oily skin, sleep apnea, and missed periods. Because of the hormonal imbalance, a woman’s fertility is also affected. When a woman without PCOS ovulates, her ovaries build what’s called a follicle, which develops and then releases the egg into the fallopian tube. When a woman has PCOS, the follicle develops partially, but there are not enough hormones to develop the eggs, so the follicle just sort of hangs around in the ovary. Sometimes the unused follicle attaches to the ovary as a cyst, hence the name: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

This is obviously a major challenge to women with PCOS who want to conceive: if you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant! So what can you do to increase your chances of getting pregnant?

Another hormonal component of PCOS is that it affects insulin production. You will likely want to speak to a nutritionist about a healthy, whole food-based, low-carb diet to help control your blood sugar levels and keep your weight in check. It is especially important to maintain a healthy weight in order to help keep reproductive hormones in check. It is difficult as a woman with PCOS, since the hormonal imbalance often encourages weight gain. Your hormones encourage weight gain and your weight gain encourages hormone imbalance—tough spot to be in. Make sure you exercise daily as a means of encouraging hormonal health as well as maintaining an ideal weight.

If that is not enough to get your cycles back on track and get you on your way toward making a baby, you can try taking fertility meds like Clomid. Clomid (a trade name for a drug called clomifene) works to help your ovaries produce and release eggs. This may be the “missing piece” in your fertility puzzle, although there are some side effects. If the Clomid doesn’t work, there are some more powerful hormonal treatments you can use to increase your chance of ovulation, but the side effects of these are even more intense than with Clomid. Finally, you can try in vitro fertilization (IVF), where several fertilized eggs are implanted into your uterus in the hopes that one or more will implant and grow into a healthy pregnancy. This also carries risks, and is very expensive.

There are many options to try if you have been diagnosed with PCOS, but they all need to be discussed with your doctor. PCOS used to almost be a death sentence to a woman’s desire to have a baby, but now women have many options to help them conceive!