PCOS can come with a range of symptoms and related health conditions and managing the condition can be demanding. Besides insulin resistance and the high levels of androgens (also known as male-type hormones), other health issues associated with PCOS are metabolic syndrome, prediabetes & type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, endometrial cancer, and sleep apnoea. But often health professionals forget to mention that it also can cause severe pregnancy complications and gestational diabetes. The good news is that managing your symptoms and getting appropriate treatment will also help prevent many of these related conditions.
PCOS pregnancy complications
Once a woman with PCOS becomes pregnant, there can be some increased risks of developing some health conditions during pregnancy. These can include:
- ectopic pregnancy
- gestational diabetes (see below)
- gestational hypertension (high blood pressure)
- pre-eclampsia (the typical signs of this are high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the mother’s urine; it can be dangerous to both the mother and the unborn baby)
- pre-term (early) birth
- effects on the baby’s size: the baby might be either small or large for its gestational age.
If you have PCOS it is important to tell your pregnancy health-care professional. They will need to monitor and manage these conditions, should they occur.
Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) is a common condition where there is too much glucose in the blood. The risk of gestational diabetes was more than doubled in women with PCOS. (1)
Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy because of insulin resistance. This risk increases if you are overweight when pregnant. This is why it is so important to heal your body before pregnancy. A healthier lifestyle reduces pregnancy-related complications in PCOS.
Women usually recover from gestational diabetes after their baby is born, when their blood glucose levels return to normal. However, they remain at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, so monitoring and prevention are very important.
The higher incidence of miscarriage in women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may be that the occurrence is related to elevated insulin levels. Researchers definitely see that miscarriage is more likely to occur in women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) influenced by Insulin Resistance, than in women who do not have the condition. (2)
If you’re a pregnant woman with PCOS, then you might have elevated levels of insulin. High insulin levels can actually result in increased blood clotting at the interface between the uterine lining and the placenta, leading to placental insufficiency, and failure of the placenta to supply nutrients to the fetus and remove toxic wastes. The result can be a miscarriage.
What you can do
If you are worried about the risks of health conditions during pregnancy related to PCOS, it is helpful to:
- Get your symptoms of PCOS under control as a first step
- Learn about and understand your risks
- Have your blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol checked regularly
- Seek guidance and support to help with symptom management, if needed
- Discuss any of your concerns with your doctor
There is no single solution that addresses all the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or Insulin Resistance. But you can take certain steps to improve your overall health that are also helpful in reducing pregnancy complications.
- upgrade your overall diet (a diet that is high in non-starchy vegetables and low in simple carbohydrates, fats, and sugars is best)
- increase your physical movement
- reduce your stress levels
- stabilise your insulin and glucose levels
- balance your hormonal systems
Keep in mind that improving your fertility with PCOS must be seen as a complex process including all aspects of your life with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Changing your mindset around is key to success and will make sure that you stay healthy for life.
Don’t forget, if you address all aspects of your health in the first place trying for number two may be easy and possible without any struggle at all.
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