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Trying to Conceive with PCOS: Experts Share Their Advice
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Trying to Conceive with PCOS: Experts Share Their Advice

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex metabolic, reproductive, and endocrine disorder that affects about 10% of women of childbearing age in the United States. And for many, it can make getting pregnant a little more difficult.

But, there are plenty of nutrition and lifestyle strategies to manage PCOS symptoms and help support your fertility. So, we went straight to the leading PCOS and fertility experts for their best advice.

We asked reproductive endocrinologists (REIs), registered dietitians (RDs), and reproductive acupuncturists specializing in PCOS what everyone wants to know:

“What is your top nutrition or lifestyle-related fertility advice for women with PCOS trying to conceive?”

And here’s what they had to say:

Prioritize Healthy Eating Patterns

Choosing a fertility-friendly diet that emphasizes non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats helps support healthy insulin and blood sugar levels, which is key for women with PCOS. Although healthy eating patterns can look a little different for everyone, here are a few nutrition tips from our experts.

According to Dr. Mark Trolice, MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE, Director of The IVF Center, “The healthiest diet to adhere to is the Mediterranean diet. So, in general, you’d be eating lots of fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of meat and dairy.” He adds, “Remember, portion control and healthy food is the key towards a proper diet.”

Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN, author of The PCOS Diet Plan, agrees. “A great first step is to get serious about adopting a plant-based diet and limiting added sugars and red meat. Research suggests this Mediterranean-type diet may be good for fertility regardless of PCOS status and is also a good strategy for managing the insulin resistance that can interfere with ovulation in women with PCOS.”

Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE, and PCOS nutrition expert, also recommends focusing on foods that support healthy blood sugar and insulin levels. “The Nurse’s Health Study showed that women who consumed carbs with the highest glycemic load were 92% more likely to have fertility problems when compared to women who consumed the lowest glycemic load carbs (such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit). Adding fats (preferably healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut butters) to these carbs can slow the rise of blood sugar even more.”

Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods

Nutrient-dense foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients (plant nutrients), and fiber – all key for fertility.

Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN, founder of PCOS Nutrition Center, recommends focusing on antioxidants. “When I work with women who are trying to conceive, I like to help them increase the antioxidants in their eating plan. Antioxidants help to improve egg quality and decrease inflammation. Ways to increase antioxidants are through fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats.”

Farrar Duro, AP, FABORM, author of The Smart Couple’s Guide to Getting Pregnant, An Integrated Approach, recommends “increasing your intake of fiber, along with fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and taking a high quality prenatal with methylated folate, vitamin D3, and omega-3.” She also recommends women “avoid sugary and processed foods, salty snacks, coffee, tea, cola, and other carbonated drinks, and alcohol” while trying to conceive.

Cory Ruth, MS, RD, founder of The Women’s Dietitian and creator of the Get Pregnant with PCOS program, recommends balancing blood sugar levels with nutrient-dense foods. “When our blood sugar is out of whack, it sends messages to our ovaries to pump out more testosterone, which can inhibit ovulation. Load up on plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber, while keeping refined carbohydrates to a minimum.”

Get Regular Exercise

Regular exercise has numerous health benefits and is essential for women with PCOS, especially when you’re trying to conceive. There’s no specific type of exercise that’s best for PCOS, but it’s important to try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

PCOS Personal Trainer, Erika Volk, suggests mixing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with walking for your cardio workout. Her other workout tips to improve fertility include taking a moderate approach and strengthening your upper back. Try to include strength training exercise in your routine at least twice a week.

Dr. Mark Trolice encourages his patients to recognize the importance of physical activity. “Increasing your metabolism with daily exercise will expedite your weight loss. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of cardio for five days per week and two days of weight training to reduce insulin resistance.”

“Physical activity is critical for managing insulin resistance. Planning to conceive can be a good motivator to get serious about this health-promoting habit that often falls through the cracks,” adds Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN.

Judy Simon MS, RDN, CD, CHES, FAND of Mind Body Nutrition also stresses the importance of exercise when trying to conceive with PCOS. “Women come to me to just expect to talk just about food, but we always discuss lifestyle. I explore what type of movement they enjoy and learn how being active is an important way to manage their PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity. Movement is a great starting place for PCOS. All women can do it!”

Consider Extra Support to Achieve Healthy Insulin Levels

Achieving healthy insulin levels is a common goal among PCOS healthcare providers. While diet and lifestyle play a huge role, some women may need a little extra support. Certain compounds, often referred to as “insulin sensitizers,” help the body use insulin more effectively to support fertility and overall health.

Dr. Mark Perloe, MD, former reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility in Atlanta, GA, advised his patients to follow “a low glycemic diet along with strength training exercise and insulin sensitizers to reduce androgens and insulin levels.” He further states, “This can help induce weight loss, regular cycles, and restore ovulation and fertility.”

Although PCOS impacts fertility, it’s entirely possible for women with PCOS to become pregnant. Keep these tips from our PCOS experts in mind as you’re trying to conceive, and be sure to discuss family planning with your own healthcare provider to help guide you on your path to motherhood.




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