If you have PCOS you’ll be well aware that it can be more difficult to conceive. But, I have had literally thousands of clients with PCOS have healthy babies. Your diet has a huge impact. In this week’s blog, I’m going to share with you some of the key dietary strategies that you need to know if you want to conceive with PCOS.
1. Optimise your weight
Now, I get that weight loss is hard, especially with PCOS, but you’ve never had the motivation of wanting to have a baby, now have you??? Research shows that if you have PCOS and are overweight, and you lose even just 5% of your body weight, your chances of conceiving improve. So, now’s the time!
Let me share a case study of a recent client of mine to give you an example….
Kelly was referred to see me by her fertility specialist a few months ago, as she was about to undergo IVF. She was diagnosed with PCOS about 15 years ago, and already has two children who were both conceived with the help of a medication called clomiphene which is a common medication given to women with PCOS who are trying to conceive. You may know it by one of its brand names though. Anyway, clomiphene’s job is to stimulate ovulation. Kelly had gained over 20kg during her last pregnancy, and had struggled to lose it, so this time the clomiphene wasn’t working, which is why she was looking at IVF. I started working with her on some dietary and weight loss techniques, and before she could even start her IVF, she discovered she was pregnant!
I find that many people rely on medications like clomiphene to do all the work for them. But, research shows that these medications, and even IVF, are much more effective when combined with dietary and weight optimisation.
Now, again, I know that for many women, losing weight is easier said than done, but please get the help that you need because it does make a big difference.
2. Optimise your carbohydrate intake
It’s high insulin levels that cause the development of cysts on your ovaries. The body uses the hormone, insulin to digest carbohydrates. So, eating too many carbohydrates can result in too much insulin production for women with PCOS. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to cut out carbs altogether. But it does mean that you should include some protein and low starch vegetables with your carbs, and you should also space your carbs evenly through the day, rather than eating them all at once.
Let me give you an example…
Kate came to see me because she wanted to have a baby. She was a healthy weight, but had been diagnosed with PCOS, and had over twenty cysts in each ovary. She was half-heartedly following a vegetarian diet, which can be a healthy diet to follow, if you still make sure that you’re getting all of your protein sources from vegetarian proteins such as tofu, legumes and nuts….but she wasn’t. In fact, Kate’s protein intake was very low, so even though she was a healthy weight on the outside, when we analysed her body composition, we found that she had a very high percentage of body fat. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got her spacing her carbohydrates properly, eating adequate vegetarian proteins and counting her carbohydrate intake with an app. When she had her next ultrasound, no cysts were identified, they had all gone….. And, she soon conceived….
3. Choose healthy fats
There have been several studies which have found that high intakes of healthy fats, especially omega 3 fats, have improved the menstrual cycles of women with PCOS.
One of my best friend’s is one of those women who was just born to be a mum. Like many women with PCOS, she had always struggled with her weight. She came to live with me for six months before her wedding so between picking up a few tips from me and wedding excitement, she was eating really well. Furthermore, on her next birthday, one of her friends gave her a gift voucher for a cooking class on how to cook fish, so they were eating fish on a regular basis….This was years and years ago, before I had the experience that I’ve had now….so to be honest with you, I was worried that she might struggle to conceive, and I knew how important having children was to them. So, I encouraged her to start trying sooner rather than later. Even though she had PCOS, she conceived first try! In hindsight, with what I know now, I really believe that it was a blessing. Due to a combination of living with me, eating well for her wedding and her birthday gift, she was inadvertently eating the perfect PCOS diet!
So, in summary, if you have PCOS and want to conceive….
- Optimise your weight
- Optimise your carbohydrate intake by eating small, regular amounts of carbohydrate-containing foods throughout the day, but always combined with protein and/or vegetables, and
- Include plenty of good fats like fish in your diet.
Now, if you’re scratching your head and thinking, oh, this sounds like a lot of work! What does this actually look like on a day to day basis?? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! All you need to do is download the fertility meal plan that I’ve created for you.
And, please feel free to post any questions in the comments section below. I’m here to help, and would be happy to answer them for you!