Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, more popularly known as PCOS, is a hormonal condition marked by an abnormal production of male hormones in women. This imbalance results in the formation of small fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries, which hamper ovulation, conflict with the menstrual cycle and can result in infertility.
Dr. Stephen Thung, chief of obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says, “PCOS is a complicated multifaceted medical condition that commonly results in ovulation dysfunction and difficulty with achieving a pregnancy.”
PCOS During Pregnancy: Risks and Managing Tips
In pregnant women, PCOS can bring in a number of complications, which have to be administered carefully, besides maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
PCOS During Pregnancy: The Risks
Women suffering from PCOS are at a higher risk of certain complications during pregnancy. Dr. Thung says, “It is important to realize that PCOS commonly runs with other medical conditions that are significant risk factors for complicated pregnancies such as borderline diabetes, gestational diabetes, chronic hypertension and maternal obesity.”
Prominent pregnancy complications related to PCOS include:
- Miscarriage: According to National Institutes of Health, pregnant mothers with PCOS are three times more likely to miscarry in the first trimester of pregnancy than those without PCOS.
- Pre-Eclampsia: A sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy, pre-eclampsia can put both the mother’s and baby’s health at risk. Dr. Thung says, “If missed, pre-eclampsia can become severe and result in liver and kidney failure, seizures, and other adverse baby and mother outcomes.”
- Chronic Hypertension: Pregnancy-induced chronic hypertension often occurs in the second half of pregnancy. If not diagnosed on time and left untreated, it can result in pre-eclampsia.
- Obesity: The imbalance of hormones can severely affect your metabolic function, increasing your risk for maternal obesity. If you are already overweight and suffering from PCOS, the risk of complications increases substantially.
5 Expert Tips Managing PCOS During Pregnancy
While PCOS puts the mother at an increased risk of pregnancy-associated complications, these can be avoided. Balancing the hormones with proper nutrition and exercise can help expectant mothers control PCOS and protect themselves and their babies.
Jennifer Schmid, holistic nurse & natural wellness educator from Santa Clara, gives a few tips for women with PCOS who’re pregnant. These tips will not only help your PCOS symptoms and complications but also benefit your overall health.
1. PCOS is a “modern” syndrome that may result from eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates. Several studies have been able to demonstrate a link between a low-carb diet and reduced symptoms of PCOS. She says, “Eat a low-carb diet with plenty of healthy, fresh fats. Healthy fats such as those found in coconut oil, avocados, butter, and olive oil have been traditional superfoods given to pregnant and breastfeeding women in many cultures that do not have access to processed foods.” Read more about the PCOS diet here.
2. She advises avoiding anything that can disrupt your endocrine function and put your liver into an overdrive. Keep away from OTC pills, plastics, pesticides, and soy products, all of which can conflict with your hormonal levels.
3. Schmid says that a probiotic every day is essential during pregnancy. “A recent study showed that a daily probiotic can help stabilize insulin levels and helps populate the vagina with healthy flora for the baby. Eating a sweetened yogurt product does not confer the same benefits,” she says. 
4. Stress can disrupt your endocrine function and also the metabolism of hormones, besides being harmful to your baby. “Get enough sleep, engage in yoga, meditation and other mindful ways to reduce stress,” advises Schmid to manage stress naturally.
5. The key to keeping the mother and baby healthy is to bring the body into balance. The risk for gestational diabetes can be reduced by managing the blood sugar and keeping a healthy weight.
Lastly, Jennifer adds, “When in doubt, women with PCOS who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, should work with a health practitioner or midwife to ensure that they are receiving the proper nutrients to sustain a viable pregnancy and enjoy the gifts of an empowered labor and delivery.”
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