Natural Options for Infertility and PCOS
When women with PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome start thinking about becoming pregnant, they find that it can be challenging and they may suffer from infertility. Infertility is defined as struggling to become pregnant after trying for 1 full year, or if you are over 35 years old- after 6 months of trying.1 Some women have even been told by their ob/gyn that they won’t be able to have a baby without IVF or a fertility specialist. However, I have worked with many women diagnosed with PCOS and I have been able to help them reach hormone balance in order to naturally conceive!
Hormones & PCOS
PCOS can be a barrier to natural conception due to the hormone imbalances at play. Normally, on day 1 of your cycle (the first day of your period), all hormones start at a low point. Those hormones include:
- FSH & LH: the signals from your brain to communicate to your ovaries and uterus
GnRH, a hormone in the brain, is the starting point for women’s hormones to be produced.4 It is released from the hypothalamus of the brain in a pulsatile manner and signals the pituitary of the brain.4 As the days go by, estrogen starts to gradually increase where it peaks and causes a surge of LH and FSH that later leads to a rise in progesterone. The surge of FSH with LH allows for ovulation to occur.2, 3 If the women’s egg is not fertilized by sperm, then the endometrial lining of the uterus sheds and starts the cycle once again.
In women with PCOS, GnRH is not released in a regulated, pulsatile manner but rather is a faster signal causing the hormone dysregularity particularly:
- Higher LH production
- High testosterone & DHEA production
- Little progesterone production
- Lack of proper ovulation
Other lab markers that should always be considered for hormone balance in women with PCOS are: insulin, HbA1c, glucose, prolactin and thyroid hormones.
Women with PCOS also commonly (but not always) have higher levels of insulin, predisposing them to blood sugar issues, weight gain and cardiovascular health issues. The root cause of PCOS is ultimately due to changes in how genes are expressed and read in the body.7
The hormone imbalances and high insulin common in PCOS leads to symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss, particularly in temples and frontal scalp
- Hair growth in upper lip, under the chin or even chest; also known as hirsutism
- Infrequent periods
Difficulty conceiving with PCOS can become very stressful for couples, however once women balance their hormones and blood sugar metabolism they can often become pregnant within a year of starting naturopathic medical care.
Here are 3 simple but effective tips for infertility due to PCOS that will lay the foundation of health on the road to overcoming PCOS:
- Good Nutrition: Eat a paleo or whole 30 diet consisting of lean protein for every meal, high amounts of vegetables, limiting fruit to 1 serving a day, no processed carbs (pasta, white rice, breads), eliminate all sugar/soda and limiting alcohol to only once per week.
- Daily movement: exercise at least 20 minutes every day.
- Stress management: 10-20 minutes of daily guided meditation.
Navigating and determining the best PCOS regimen for fertility can be challenging on your own, and I encourage everyone that is struggling with PCOS to have a naturopathic or functional doctor in their corner to help them. Supplements specific to PCOS and infertility should always be tailored to your specific case and can be helpful in supporting conceive naturally.
Interested in working with me? Please schedule online or call my office at (480) 648-1534 to schedule an appointment.
3 Orlowski M, Sarao MS. Physiology, Follicle Stimulating Hormone. [Updated 2021 May 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535442/
4 Thompson, I. R., & Kaiser, U. B. (2014). GnRH pulse frequency-dependent differential regulation of LH and FSH gene expression. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 385(1-2), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mce.2013.09.012
5 Ali Abbara, Waljit S Dhillo, Targeting Elevated GnRH Pulsatility to Treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 106, Issue 10, October 2021, Pages e4275–e4277, https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgab422
6 Richard S. Legro, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Cardiovascular Disease: A Premature Association?, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 24, Issue 3, 1 June 2003, Pages 302–312, https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2003-0004
7 McAllister, J. M., Legro, R. S., Modi, B. P., & Strauss, J. F., 3rd (2015). Functional genomics of PCOS: from GWAS to molecular mechanisms. Trends in endocrinology and metabolism: TEM, 26(3), 118–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2014.12.004