Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a much more widespread condition than you might think. The NHS indicates as many one in five women may be living with PCOS, but accurate estimates are difficult as many are undiagnosed.
The causes of the condition aren’t yet fully understood, with researchers exploring different possible genetic and environmental triggers, but the effects are better known. PCOS can cause weight gain, due to an excess of insulin, and this also causes your body to over-produce androgen, which leads to unwanted hair growth (known as hirsutism), skin discolouration, particularly around the back and buttocks, and fertility issues. The androgen disrupts your menstrual cycle, delaying the maturation of an egg for ovulation – or even preventing it altogether. This leads to the cysts in the name of the conditions: they’re the sacs containing immature eggs that are normally reabsorbed by the body as the most mature one dominates.
If you ovulate less often, you have less chances to get pregnant: you need sperm to encounter a fertile egg in order to conceive. The fewer mature eggs your ovaries can eject, the fewer times there are when you could conceive. The fertility implications are obvious, but it doesn’t spell doom for your chances of getting pregnant.
There are two approaches to mitigating the effect of PCOS on your fertility: you can encourage your body to ovulate more often and to a more regular schedule, and you can monitor your ovulation to make sure you can capitalise on it when it happens and give yourself the best chance to conceive!
There are lots of systems and products that promise to predict when you’re due to ovulate, but it’s important to make sure you pick the right one, as PCOS makes it more difficult. Some ovulation calculators promise to predict your cycle for you with simply the date of your last period, but these rely on you having a regular cycle, which is precisely the problem!
OPKs (ovulation prediction kits) measure you hormones to tell you when you’re ovulating, but once again, an irregular hormonal backdrop is part of what having PCOS means! Basal Body Temperature is a better measure, whatever health issues you may have and a fertility device that helps you get an accurate temperature, as well as providing predictions for you should be an essential item for anyone trying to get pregnant with PCOS.
With medication or dietary changes helping you ovulate more, and a reliable way to identify when it’s happening, PCOS doesn’t have to be the end of your fertility journey.