Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female reproductive health conditions, impacting millions of women worldwide. A staggering 1 in 10 women deal with PCOS and yet it is still often misunderstood – and misdiagnosed.
If your partner has PCOS, there’s a chance it could be impacting your road to parenthood. Whilst ‘PCOS’ is definitely not shorthand for ‘Infertility’, there could be a few hurdles to overcome. As always, it’s important you face these challenges together and early in your fertility journey.
One of the best things you can do to support your female partner dealing with PCOS is to learn about it! Here is our simple PCOS guide.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder common among women at reproductive age. There are three main symptoms of PCOS – although you only need 2 of them to be diagnosed with the condition – this is known as the Rotterdam Criteria.
The three main symptoms are:
- Irregular Periods – This is due to ovaries not releasing an egg (also known as ovulation) once every 4 weeks, as women with regular cycles do.
- High Androgen Levels – Androgens are a group of hormones that are usually connected to male characteristics (Testosterone is the most well known Androgen). Women with PCOS often exhibit ‘male’ traits – like hair growth on their face or chest and sometimes male pattern baldness.
- Polycystic ovaries – All eggs start life as follicles on ovaries, which mature and are eventually released through ovulation. Polycystic ovaries mean there are more of these follicles on the ovary, which can make ovulation difficult.
Irregular periods are one of the most obvious outward signs of PCOS, however many women have no symptoms at all – and often go undiagnosed until they try to conceive.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for PCOS, but you can manage many of the symptoms through lifestyle changes, emdical intervention and hormonal birth control. Exercise, a healthy diet and dropping bad habits such as smoking and alcohol can all go a long way to reducing the impact PCOS has on the body – and can also help to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Stress is another big factor that can make PCOS symptoms worse. It can be pretty impossible to remove all stress from the process of making a baby – especially if it’s taking longer than you would like. However, working to support your partner emotionally and make your home life as calm as possible could help.
Can we still get pregnant if my partner has PCOS?
The short answer is yes! There are many women with PCOS who conceive naturally, without the need for assisted fertility treatments.
PCOS brings with it a few side effects, such as weight gain and low insulin resistance, that could make it harder to conceive, but the main issue is that women with PCOS may not ovulate regularly. For sperm to fertilise a mature egg (and make a baby!) that egg needs to be released from the ovaries. This usually happens once every 4 weeks, but for women with PCOS this can happen irregularly – and sometimes they may miss multiple ovulation opportunities altogether. So the take-home message here is to find out when ovulation happens and make sure to have intercourse around and on this day.
This is obviously not great news if you are trying to get pregnant, but there are various – both natural and medical – things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving.
How to conceive with can we improve our chances of conceiving with PCOS?
One of the best ways to improve your chances of conceiving, in general, is to track your partner’s cycle and identify her fertile window. This can be especially helpful if PCOS is part of the equation – but it can be harder to do.
If your partner has a regular cycle, it can be fairly easy to predict when her fertile window will be (usually around 12-14 days after the first day of her period each month). However, with PCOS, cycles can be irregular, making it difficult to predict ovulation.
Learning to recognise fertile signs – like a change in cervical mucus, body temperature and cervix position – can be really helpful – as can fertility trackers like Mira Fertility Plus.
The Mira Fertility Plus is one of the most advanced fertility trackers on the market. It not only helps you track your own unique cycle, but it takes actual hormone readings to help you pinpoint the exact time of ovulation. This can be huge for women with PCOS who don’t always follow a standard 28-day menstrual cycle. You can find out more about the Mira Tracker right here.
What are the assisted fertility options for people with PCOS?
If you’re still struggling to conceive, don’t worry – your medical team can help. There are medications out there that can help to stimulate ovulation including clomiphene and metformin.
IVF can also be a very helpful option for couples with PCOS. With IVF, they not only stimulate ovulation, but doctors will harvest your partner’s eggs and then fertilise them in a lab (with your sperm unless you are using a donor). With this process, it doesn’t matter if your partner’s cycle is regular or not, as you are going through a whole different cycle, created especially for the IVF process.
How can I be supportive if my partner has PCOS?
The most important thing you can do is show your partner that she’s not in this alone! So often fertility issues get landed on the shoulders of women when making a baby is a real team effort.
Taking time to learn about PCOS, listening to her experience and offering to come along to appointments, or webinars she may be attending will all go a long way to helping her feel supported. If you’re struggling to conceive due to PCOS, she may also be experiencing feelings of guilt or shame, and again – this is time for you to be a rock of support and remind her that you’re in this together.
Aside from fertility issues, your partner may be dealing with insecurities to do with other side effects of PCOS – such as unwanted body hair or weight gain. If this is the case, it’s important to help her see that these things are not flaws and don’t affect your love for her!
Another way you can support your partner is by adopting healthy lifestyle habits as a team. If she is trying to improve her diet or exercise routine to combat the symptoms of PCOS, go on that journey with her. Not only will it be easier for her to stick to these new habits if you are doing them together, but it will also help improve your fertility too!
Where does my sperm health come in?
In many ways, it’s easy to think that sperm health does not correlate with PCOS – and it’s kind of true. If your partner is not ovulating, you could have the fastest sperm in the west and it’s still going to be hard to conceive. However, there are a few reasons why making sure your sperm is healthy can be helpful if your partner has PCOS.
Firstly, you may have fewer opportunities to conceive. If ovulation is irregular, when your partner does ovulate, you want your swimmers to be ready and raring to go. Taking steps to improve your sperm health ahead of time will ensure they are always ready for action when ovulation happens.
Secondly, understanding your sperm health can help when it comes to an infertility diagnosis. It’s very easy to assume that if your partner has PCOS, any issues with conceiving lie with her – but that’s not necessarily true! Your swimmers may also be underperforming and it’s essential that you understand the reproductive health of both of you when starting this journey. This will help your doctors identify the main issue causing infertility and get you the right treatment and support.
Lastly, it once again proves that you are in this together. If your partner is going through testing and tracking to ensure her reproductive health is where it needs to be, it’s a real sign of support for you to do the same. With the ExSeed sperm test, you can understand your sperm health from the comfort of home, without a trip to a fertility clinic.
You can find out more about our test and order yours today right here.