PCOD & Fertility: What You Need to Know?

May 2nd, 2024 | 10:30 am

Millions of women across the world suffer from PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian disease), a prevalent hormonal condition. It seriously impairs fertility in addition to causing hormone imbalances and irregular menstrual periods. Even though PCOD is one of the most discussed infertility conditions, most individuals are still unaware of what it is and how it impacts the body. In this information blog, we discuss this condition, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and what to anticipate in terms of your ability to become pregnant. 

Understanding PCOD

The medical condition known as PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) is characterised by a woman’s ovaries producing huge numbers of immature or partly developed eggs, which eventually develop into ovarian cysts. This causes the ovaries to enlarge and release a lot of androgens, which are male hormones that cause irregular menstruation periods, hair loss, and excessive weight gain. Genetics, insulin resistance, and inflammation are thought to be important contributors to PCOD, but the exact cause of the condition is still unclear. Dietary and lifestyle changes help manage PCOD.

Typically beginning in adolescence, PCOD affects women who are of reproductive age. This hormonal condition affects 5% to 10% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 (or throughout the reproductive years). Women who have a family history of PCOD are more prone to acquire the condition. This suggests that PCOD may have a genetic component. All things considered, PCOD is a widespread endocrine condition that affects millions of women globally, irrespective of their race or geography.

The Effects of PCOD on Fertility

One of the most distressing aspects of PCOD is its impact on fertility. An irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycle is one of the most prevalent reasons for seeking reproductive treatment. Tracking when and whether ovulation is occurring during your menstrual cycle is nearly impossible if your periods are irregular. Women with PCOD often experience irregular ovulation or may not ovulate at all, making it difficult to conceive. In women with PCOD, elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone can interfere with ovulation and have an impact on fertility. Insulin resistance is a common condition among PCOD-afflicted women, and it can result in excessive insulin production. Elevated insulin levels have the potential to impair ovarian health and exacerbate infertility.

Symptoms of PCOD

Women with PCOD may have both emotional and physical problems. Every person with PCOD experiences the condition differently, and the intensity of each symptom might also change. The following are some of the most common physical traits linked to PCOD:

  • Obesity
  • Excess hair growth (Hirsutism)
  • Acne, particularly in cases where treatment is ineffective 
  • Having trouble losing weight or gaining it quickly
  • Skin tags are little skin flaps that protrude from the armpits or neck region.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: ovulation may occur infrequently or not at all as a result of the hormone abnormalities linked to PCOD.

The metabolic functions of the body can be disrupted by PCOD, which can result in problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes in pregnancy. Psychologically, PCOD is linked to problems with anxiety, sadness, and body image. 

Diagnosing & Treating PCOD

It can be difficult to diagnose PCOD because there isn’t a single, reliable test. Usually, because of problems with conception, PCOD is discovered when a patient consults a doctor. A transvaginal ultrasound is a vital diagnostic tool that lets the medical professional see the ovaries and look for distinguishing characteristics like many tiny cysts. In addition, hormone levels such as those of Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH), oestrogen, and testosterone are measured in laboratories.

Test findings, however, are not the only factor used to diagnose PCOD. The symptoms that the patient reports are very important in the diagnosing procedure.  Menstrual cycle abnormalities, trouble controlling weight, atypical facial or chest hair development, and pertinent medical histories such as diabetes, thyroid issues, hypertension, anxiety, or depression are all encouraged to be discussed by patients. Through the integration of diagnostic testing and patient-reported symptoms, healthcare professionals are able to accurately diagnose PCOD and customise treatment regimens to meet particular requirements. For the purpose of facilitating an accurate diagnosis and suitable PCOD treatment, patients must provide full information.

The symptoms of PCOD can be addressed, but the condition itself has no known cure. A BMI of 30 or above will indicate that you should reduce weight through exercise and a balanced diet. Your body may begin to ovulate only from this. If it doesn’t accomplish this, it will still improve the way the medication functions and reduce pregnancy-related risks.

Treatment for PCOD symptoms may include:

  • Medications: Women with PCOD are often administered hormonal birth control medications to manage their menstrual periods and lower their testosterone levels.  Medications that increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin will also be prescribed. These medicines will enhance the synthesis of testosterone. In the case of diabetes, medications to control blood sugar levels will be recommended. 
  • 1. Lifestyle Modifications: Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle can help control the symptoms of PCOD and enhance the success of conception. This entails engaging in regular exercise to manage weight and enhance insulin sensitivity, in addition to eating a balanced diet full of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains. It can also help manage stress by practising certain relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. 
  • Surgery: Though it is rarely performed in practice, laparoscopic ovarian drilling is a kind of surgery that may be a possibility if you have not responded to medicines. Ovulation may be inhibited, and the ovarian outer shell may be thickened by PCOD. The doctor will create a number of small incisions during this surgery. Your internal organs will be seen using a laparoscope through a single incision. After that, a few holes will be made in the ovary’s surface using a laser or tiny needle. For six to eight months, ovulation usually returns as a result.
  • Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): When a woman with PCOD finds it difficult to conceive naturally, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) may be suggested. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the process of inducing numerous eggs from the ovaries. These eggs are then harvested, fertilised in a lab, and finally placed into the uterus. Depending on the specifics of each case, further ART alternatives, such as ovarian drilling surgery or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), may also be taken into consideration.

How can I reduce the symptoms of PCOD at home?

The following actions may be taken at home to help with PCOD symptoms:

  • A balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains is the best option for a healthy diet. Cut back on processed meals and sugar-filled snacks.
  • Including frequent exercise in your routine can help you better control your weight and insulin sensitivity.
  • To promote hormone balance and general health, aim for 7-9 hours of good sleep per night.
  • To lower your stress levels, try some relaxation exercises like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
  • Throughout the day, sip on lots of water to maintain your hydration levels and assist your metabolism.

You may successfully control the symptoms of PCOD and enhance your general health by putting these lifestyle modifications into practice.

Seeking Support at Giggles Hospitals

Women with PCOD must seek help from medical specialists, support groups, or mental health counsellors since managing infertility can be emotionally taxing. It’s unknown how PCOD and depression are associated, although depression and anxiety are pretty frequent in PCOD patients.  Stress and anxiety related to infertility problems might be reduced by having an honest conversation about your thoughts and experiences. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and, if necessary, recommend you to an appropriate expert.

Fertility can be severely impacted by PCOD, yet many of these women can have healthy pregnancies with several medical treatment techniques. Women with PCOD can increase their chances of becoming pregnant & giving birth to a healthy child by learning about the connection between PCOD and fertility and putting lifestyle modifications and medicinal treatments into practice. 

Please don’t hesitate to seek advice and assistance from the top fertility doctors at Giggles if you are experiencing problems with PCOD-related infertility. Always keep in mind that you have support systems and are not the only one navigating the transition to motherhood.

This blog post has been verified by Dr. Radhika Jupally (MBBS, M.S.(OBGYN).