It is a known fact that PCOS can affect many areas of your health in subtle ways – including reproductive, metabolic, and psychological health. The symptoms most often overlap with other conditions as well and can sometimes go overlooked and hence undiagnosed. And leaving PCOS untreated can greatly increase the risk of developing health complications in the future.
PCOS and pregnancy
Especially if you are planning on starting a family, it is important to remember that having PCOS does not make you infertile but it can reduce your fertility – making it difficult to get pregnant. Hence it is advised to first manage your PCOS symptoms before you plan on getting pregnant. Because the underlying hormonal imbalance can affect your pregnancy as well in many ways. Women with PCOS are at 2 to 3 times greater risk of having a miscarriage in the first trimester as opposed to women without PCOS.
PCOS pregnancy can be affected by a number of factors that can increase the risk of a miscarriage:
- Untreated insulin resistance
- Increased male hormone levels
- Overweight or obesity
- Certain medications used for fertility
- Genetic abnormalities
Managing healthy PCOS pregnancy
Although some factors like genetic abnormalities are not under our control, there are other factors that you can improve by making lifestyle changes such as diet modifications, regular exercise, managing stress and sleep cycle.
In addition to making lifestyle changes, some women may also be prescribed medications to help manage hormone imbalance. One of those medications is Metformin. Metformin is a drug typically prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes, but is also widely used for women with PCOS to reduce insulin resistance and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Metformin has also shown positive effects in reducing the rate of miscarriage and pre-term birth in women with PCOS. This is mainly because elevated levels of insulin can be a major factor in causing miscarriage in PCOS pregnancy.
Your hormone levels and PCOS-related factors are greatly influenced by your lifestyle. And many women are able to successfully conceive with PCOS and reduce the risk of having any pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.
Tips to reduce the risk of miscarriage with PCOS
In most cases, you cannot prevent a miscarriage. However, the best thing you can do is to manage your PCOS symptoms completely before planning on getting pregnant. If you are already pregnant, the best thing you can do is to continue to follow a healthy lifestyle and to follow your doctors’ advice. If there is a chromosomal abnormality, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. But if you have a high risk pregnancy, working closely with your doctor to have your pregnancy monitored along with making lifestyle changes can reduce the risk.
These are some tips you can follow to reduce the risk of having a miscarriage with PCOS:
- Eating a healthy diet is not only about losing or maintaining weight. The essential nutrients you get from eating whole foods are important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy and meeting any nutritional deficiencies. It is important that you follow your nutritionist’s or doctors’ advice on what to eat and avoid in your pregnancy.
- Exercising regularly before your pregnancy and even during can help keep you in good shape. For PCOS, usually, a combination of strength and cardio can help improve the symptoms. During pregnancy, you can do some light exercises that do not put pressure on your abdomens such as walking, stationary cycling or yoga.
- If you are overweight or obese, losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can not only help improve PCOS symptoms but can also reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. Obesity is linked to many health conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions. Although it is not known how being overweight exactly affects your pregnancy, many studies have shown that with a higher BMI, the chances of pregnancy complications also increase.
- It is best to avoid smoking and alcohol in your PCOS treatment journey and especially if you are pregnant. Smoking and alcohol not only pose multiple health risks such as cancer and heart disease it can also greatly increase the risk of miscarriage, pre-term birth or stillborn baby.
- Be careful of what you eat. Certain foods such as unpasteurized cheese, and undercooked meat, can transmit food-borne bacteria that can cause miscarriage. Always wash your hands while handling raw foods and cook meat, fish and eggs properly. Also, wash fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits thoroughly.