You may have heard that being overweight or obese can make it harder to get pregnant. One of the reasons for this is that women who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a reproductive condition that makes conception difficult.
While medical experts aren't sure about the exact cause of PCOS, they know that the disorder causes a woman's ovaries to produce higher-than-normal amounts of androgens. Androgens are "male" hormones that are produced in the bodies of both sexes. However, lower amounts of the hormone are made in women. When androgen production in a woman's body becomes excessive, it can lead to an interference with typical female reproductive functions, such as ovulation and menstruation.
These processes are necessary for a woman to conceive. Therefore, pregnancy is not possible in women with PCOS until they're able to regain regular ovulation and menstruation. Fortunately, there are treatments for the condition.
Options include fertility medication, diabetes medication, birth control pills and surgical intervention. Perhaps the healthiest and least invasive way to combat the disorder is to make lifestyle changes like weight loss, exercise and the adoption of a healthy diet (low-fat and low-sugar with an increase in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean meats). If you have PCOS, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your current body weight can help regulate your cycle and restore menstruation [sources: MedlinePlus; WomensHealth.gov].
If you do get pregnant while you have PCOS, you'll be at high risk for gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure [source: Mayo Clinic]. So it's still a good idea to make food- and activity-related lifestyle changes even if you've conceived. If you're concerned about how to exercise and manage your diet safely while pregnant, ask your OB-GYN for approved tips.
The good news is that pregnancy is possible with PCOS if it's managed properly. This means following your doctor's advice and taking any necessary prescriptions prior to conception -- then maintaining a healthy lifestyle and close monitoring during all three trimesters of your pregnancy.
Keep reading for lots more information on fertility.
- Epigee Women's Health. "PCOS and Pregnancy." (July 16, 2012) http://www.epigee.org/reproductive-health-pcos-pregnancy.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - Complications." Aug. 4, 2011. (July 16, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/DS00423/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
- MedlinePlus. "Polycystic Ovary Syndrome." Feb. 26, 2012. (July 16, 2012) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000369.htm
- WomensHealth.gov. "Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet." March 17, 2010. (July 16, 2012) http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.cfm