Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a major cause of infertility. A symptom of the PCOS, 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 no or infrequent ovulation, they may be unable to become to conceive. 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 costs or risks of IVF. Since the main reason women with PCOS have trouble conceiving is irregular 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 an expensive, complex 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: multiple pregnancy, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb), 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 percent of ART clinics in the U.S., 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 (minerals, vitamins, 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 ART failures, using a systematic approach to reverse insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms.
U.S. Deptartment of Health and Human Services
2004 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates