If you’re reading this article, you may well know what PCOS is, but for any of you who are less familiar, the term PCOS refers to a common condition in those with ovaries, which can display as a collection of symptoms. One out of the 3 diagnostic criteria (2 of which must be present) is irregular or no periods. Therefore, prompting the common question with PCOS, can I get pregnant?
PCOS and periods
As we know, one of the main signs and symptoms of PCOS is irregular or no periods, unfortunately, though PCOS may not be the only cause. Another cause of loss of regular periods is a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). Distinguishing between the two conditions can be difficult, however as treatment options will differ it’s important to rule out HA first.
To help you understand the differences between the two, see the below guide on the differences between the two conditions:
Biochemical differences between PCOS and HA
• Normal levels of luteinising hormone (LH)*, often 2-3 times higher than follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
• Normal to high oestradiol*
• Normal to high free testosterone*
• Low to normal LH
• Low to normal oestradiol
• Low to normal testosterone
*See below a top-line overview of the hormones mentioned above:
Luteinising Hormone (LH) = is involved in the development of follicles within the ovaries in the first part of the menstrual cycle.
Oestradiol is one of the multiple forms of oestrogen. Largely produced by the ovaries, oestrogens have many roles within the menstrual cycle as well as additional roles in strengthening bones and maintaining blood cholesterol levels.
Testosterone is a sex hormone mainly produced in the ovaries, and later converted to oestradiol. Also referred to as androgens.
Physical differences between PCOS and HA
• Acne on the face and body (often resistant to treatment)
• Hair loss on the head
• Excess hair on the face and body
• No or mild acne
• Hair thinning, brittle, or no changes
• No or mild presence of excess hair on the face and body
Differences in lifestyle habits between PCOS and HA
• History of weight change, often gain (although not always)
• Often weight loss or low body weight (although not always)
• Increase in exercise frequency and/or intensity
• Frequent performance in high intensity exercise
• Limiting food groups or intake
As well as understanding the differences between the two yourself, this may be helpful to discuss with your GP or healthcare professional if you feel uncertain about your diagnosis.
Can I get pregnant with PCOS?
Now we understand what may be causing a loss of periods, and the signs/symptoms of the conditions, it’s really important to highlight that even if you are diagnosed with PCOS it does not mean that you cannot get pregnant. In fact, working with a healthcare professional the majority of individuals with PCOS can get pregnant.
Most people find a short course of tablets at the beginning of their cycle over the course of several cycles can be successful. However, this is not the only option, if unsuccessful injections or IVF treatments can also be considered.