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PCOS: Lifestyle Changes to Boost Fertility

Katlyn Joy |22, September 2014


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that affects approximately 5 million women in the US, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Women's Health. It is a hormone imbalance, which causes many symptoms, of which the main one is infertility.

Causes of PCOS

PCOS is connected to a variety of factors, but none definitively. A majority of women with the condition are obese, around 50 to 60 percent, while many of the remainder are overweight. Of women with PCOS who are overweight, the majority have elevated levels of insulin. This contributes not only to PCOS and obesity, but also diabetes, uterine cancer, cardiac problems, sleep apnea and other health issues.

In PCOS clusters of little pearl-like cysts will form in the ovaries, and the male hormone androgen will be elevated. This results in irregular or skipped periods, infertility, acne or skin blotches, thinning hair possibly with male pattern baldness, increased unwanted body hair, weight problems particularly centered around the waist, pelvic pain, and anxiety or depression.

The syndrome runs in families and if you have a sister with the condition, you are twice as likely to get PCOS.


To treat PCOS, the first step is often making lifestyle changes. If those prove unsuccessful, other options may be explored, such as birth control pills for those not wanting to get pregnant, diabetes medications such as Metformin, ovarian stimulation medication, or anti-androgen drugs. A surgical process known as ovarian drilling is often successful for women suffering from PCOS.

Lifestyle Changes

Changing diet is a key element, and looking closely at foods that raise insulin levels will be especially helpful. Some women have found specifically that a low-glycemic load diet is best to counteract the effects of PCOS. The guidelines are 16 grams of carbs per meal, and 7 grams per snack. Carbs should be eaten with healthy fats, proteins and fiber. Care should be taken to avoid sugars, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, and starches. This will go a long way toward righting insulin levels, and helping regulate menstrual cycles and increasing fertility.

Of course, it's important not just to adapt to a healthy diet, but to increase physical fitness. The type of exercise you participate in is not important, as any physical activity will lower insulin levels. Losing a mere 5 percent of your body weight will help regulate your cycles and boost your chances of achieving pregnancy. Of course, exercise will also help your sleep to become more normal and restorative, and your moods to be lightened as you have more endorphins in your system. Exercise is also a great stress-buster, and for anyone dealing with a chronic condition or infertility will appreciate lowered stress.

While general guidelines are to work out 30 to 60 minutes a day, for weight loss you may need to increase that to 90 minutes a day. Don't have an hour and a half for working out? How about 15 minutes in the morning for a walk, and take another walk after dinner? Mid-day, consider lifting dumbbells, doing an exercises DVD such as yoga, playing outside with the dog or kids, taking the stairs or parking further away at work. Work working out into your regular daily routines. It's best not to rely on a gym membership for exercise, or you're less likely to get those calories worked off.

Finding other ways to reduce stress can be beneficial to those fighting PCOS. Consider yoga or walking, which doubles as a form of exercise. Try some relaxation exercises, or deep breathing ones. You can try meditation as well. While they may not directly cure PCOS, the positive results can only help, not hurt, your efforts.

Making these changes to your lifestyle will go a long way towards your overall health and well-being.

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