By Dr. Andrea Lee
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a major cause of infertility. A symptom of the condition, often referred to as polycystic ovaries, can be nine or fewer menstrual cycles per year. This is the result of the ovaries failing to produce hormones that keep the menstrual cycle regular. When women with PCOS have infrequent or no ovulation, they may be unable to become pregnant. Many women suffering from PCOS seek fertility treatment.
Most heterosexual women with PCOS try Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) before proceeding to in vitro fertilization (IFV). ART does not have the risks or the costs of IVF. Since the main reason women with PCOS have trouble conceiving is erratic menstrual cycles, ovulation induction is the most common ART method used.
Ovulation induction often involves taking Clomid, one of the most popular fertility drugs prescribed, to encourage ovulation by stimulating ovary follicles. Women with PCOS may be all too familiar with Clomid side-effects: mood swings, hot flashes and headaches and may choose an alternative fertility drug after several unsuccessful cycles, or move on to IVF.
Artificial insemination (AI), another form Assisted Reproductive Therapy, involves the injection of sperm, either from a known donor (this person may be the woman’s unmarried partner, a friend or even family member of the non-biological partner) or from a donor bank, directly into the cervix or uterus. AI is not typically used in heterosexual couples where PCOS is the only obstacle to conception. AI is a common treatment when the male has a low sperm count or the female suffers from endometriosis.
Because PCOS seems to be more prevalent among lesbians, female couples opting for a combination of ART and artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization over adoption may be more likely to face the challenges of conceiving with PCOS. And with the recent “Gayby Boom,” the trend of lesbians and gays becoming parents, the number of lesbians undergoing ART and IVF is on the rise.
“Each year we’re seeing an annual increase of about 50 percent in the number of same-sex couples coming to us for IVF to have their children and build their families,” said Dr. Samuel Pang, Medical Director of the Reproductive Science Center of New England.
In vitro fertilization is a complex, expensive procedure used as a last resort when all other methods of assisted conception have failed. One cycle of IVF may cost as much as $12,000. Risks include: Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb), multiple pregnancy, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), and the possibility of increased risk for ovarian cancer. IFV success rates vary from clinic to clinic. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), representing over 85% of ART clinics in the United States, provides national statistics of member clinics.
Before undergoing ART, women with PCOS may consider non-pharmaceutical methods to achieve conception. One of the underlying causes of PCOS is insulin resistance, and when this condition is reversed natural conception may be achieved. Non-pharmaceutical methods include: a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, with lots of green vegetables and fruits, specific exercises to increase insulin sensitivity, nutraceuticals (vitamins, minerals and herbs that are disease specific) to balance blood sugar or a complete system that incorporates all of these elements.
You Tube Video of a Woman suffering from PCOS tells her story of conceiving naturally, after being told by doctors she would never be able to conceive naturally. She became pregnant after using a systematic approach to reverse insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms.
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
2004 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates
American Reproductive Medical Society
Fertility and Sterility
November 2007 | Vol. 88, No. 5
Dr. Andrea Lee is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing at Arizona Advanced Medicine
http://www.azadvancedmed.com/- in Scottsdale, where she treats a number of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) among other conditions. As a member of Insulite Laboratories’ Medical & Advisory team www.pcos.insulitelabs.com, Dr. Lee provides guidance and coaching to individuals who contact the Insulite Support Network, including those using the various Insulite Systems.
Prior to attending Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Lee worked as a senior research study associate and volunteered with a breast cancer support group in Oklahoma City, OK. Her Bachelor’s degree is from the University of Alaska where she studied Psychology and Exercise Science.