Pregnancy Basics for PCOS15 September, 2015
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So many young women with PCOS struggle to become pregnant. Here are the basics for improving your chances of becoming pregnant and having a successful pregnancy. These suggestions are valuable when you are just starting to desire a pregnancy, and also when you have been at it a while and are considering using a form of medical technology to achieve pregnancy.

#1 Creating new life is complex; Eat complex, whole foods

Sometimes, for some people, getting pregnant seems uncomplicated and effortless. In fact, conception and successful pregnancy are simply fine examples of the indescribable complexity of life.  

Especially if you are often distracted by the misery of infertility, you may enjoy pausing right now, and recalling some of the wonder and beauty that drives your desire to be a parent. Think for a minute what you remember about where your baby’s eye color would come from or how perfect-in-miniature a newborn’s ear is. Indulge yourself in a little day-dream of watching your child grow and learn and respond to your guidance… What a profoundly, indescribably complex miracle a human being is!

 And, you know, it’s just not fair to expect yourself to produce that miracle out of fast food burgers and diet soda or pizza and beer. In fact, you could expect that if you have PCOS, your own inherited chemistry has been created in direct response to a less-than-optimal-for-you diet history. Changing food choices is a fundamental step most women with PCOS must take in order to have a successful pregnancy. 

Whole foods are those that have not been processed and packaged in a factory. Whole foods are intact foods that have not been changed from their natural, original form until just before you prepare and eat them. If you went to a friend's house and she offered you a glass of apple juice, a cup of home-made applesauce or a fresh apple, which would you choose as the most whole food? Even if the apple juice was fresh squeezed and the applesauce was made from organically grown fruit and  no sugar added, the plain, whole apple is the least refined item and therefore the most nutritious. The applesauce is more refined than the whole apple, and some nutrients are lost in the cooking processs. But applesauce would be a better choice than the juice, which is definitiely the most altered from the original, whole apple. It is missing it’s fiber, and many of the vitamins and other nutritional components are lost with exposure to air, light and heat as the apple is refined by machinery into just juice. Whole food is the fuel our bodies are designed to run on. The more a food is manipulated traveling through the food industry to get to you, the less actual nutrition and therefore benefit for you, it has. [i];[ii]

We can eat a lot of refined food and get very little nutrition. What is put into refined food to color and preserve it for instance, and, maybe more importantly what has been taken OUT of refined food, leaves us short.  Refined, factory-sourced food products are missing essential chemistry like fiber, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and enzymes.

Refined food will also burden you with too much chemistry that has no job to do and offers no benefit in your body. Food colorings, preservatives, chemicals added to slow decay, and the remnants of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers are called xenobiotics. [iii]  This stuff is not just neutral debris; it all creates work for your hormonal, eliminative and immune systems. The resources junk food steals from you so you can eliminate it from your body are not available for you use for your natural, normal processes that will lead to optimal health and a successful pregnancy.

And, refined food makes us over-fat. Obesity by itself creates body chemistry that makes achieving regular menstrual cycles and thus pregnancy, much less likely. Obesity during pregnancy adds risks to both mom and baby’s well being, including making baby more likely to become obese, and have PCOS or metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease) as an adult.[iv]

Whole foods protect against developing obesity and the effects of xenobiotics. Whole foods are required in order to recover from obesity as well as from the effects of processing and storing the environmental toxins that ride into your system along with refined foods.

Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, choose whole foods whenever possible. Prioritize budgeting to feed yourself and your family a fresh, whole foods diet. This is the rock bottom, rock-strong foundation of good health life long.

#2 Eat Plenty of Fiber 

Dietary fiber is necessary for optimal excretion of hormones via the stool. It also slows down absorption of foods so that blood sugar is more stable.[v] 

If you eat whole foods regularly, you will get all the fiber you need. A diverse variety of fiber types is optimal: insoluble fiber from many vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and unrefined grains, promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. Those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools usually benefit from added water and fiber. Beans, oats, apples peas and psyllium combine water-soluble fiber with anti-inflammatory demulcent action. Flax seeds are generously medicinal for you, adding excellent fiber and anti-inflammatory action. These foods provide you water soluble and insoluble fiber that will help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels and potentially prevent obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [vi]

Hormones that have delivered their message and have been sent to the bowel for elimination are bound securely by fiber in the stool for evacuation. Stool with insufficient fiber allows hormones to be reabsorbed into the blood, effectively increasing your hormone levels and confusing the feedback system that we count on for just the right, functional balance of hormones. Stable, appropriately cycling hormone levels require a high fiber diet. [vii] Optimized reproductive hormone cycles are integral to long term health, particularly including breast and uterine cancer. [viii]

If you eat refined or processed foods, you may need to add supplemental fiber to your diet. However, adding fiber to a processed food diet is not nearly as beneficial as simply eating whole foods.    

#3 Balance Your Essential Fats

People who consume a "modern" diet of processed foods have an imbalance of EFAs (essential fatty acids). These fats are essential because you cannot live without them, and you must get them from your food. There are two groups of essential fats: omega­6 and omega­3. Most people consume too much omega­6 and not nearly enough omega­3. 

Until you restore this dietary balance, it will be next to impossible for your hormone to get themselves back into a healthy balance so that you can conceive. The fatty acids in your system direct the production of cholesterols, which form the foundation of your reproductive hormones, stress hormones and Vit D. The inflammatory messengers released in relation to fatty acids’ proportions have measurable positive impact on high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol that plague many women with PCOS.[ix] You may also need to Reduce Saturated Fat. A diet high in saturated animal fats tends to increase estrogen. Women with PCOS may already have an estrogen level that is too high relative to progesterone and thus have difficulty ovulating.

In addition, a diet that is too high in saturated fats impairs the metabolism of EFAs (essential fatty acids), creating disordered cell function that can perpetuate hormonal imbalances. Women who are on popular "low carb" diets to lose weight may be consuming too much saturated fat. The source, quality and the amount of saturated fat you eat is very important; if you are not sure you are doing your best with saturated fat, seek advice from a naturopathic physician or other knowledgeable professional.

#4 Change Your Carbs

Notice that I did not say "cut the carbs". You have a better chance of restoring fertility if you get rid of processed carbohydrate foods and rely more on unprocessed and non-starchy carbohydrates. 

You can find unprocessed carbs mostly in whole vegetables and whole fruits, and also nuts and seeds. They are also found in grains and legumes, although we recommend you restrict consumption of starchy carbs if you are overweight or have any blood sugar issues at all.

You will find undesirable carbs ( as well as “bad”, hydrogenated or otherwise un-natural fats, in nearly all processed, manufactured foods.

#5 Stop the Junk Food

Junk food is any food that high in calories but low in nutrition. [x] These calories are called "empty calories". Junk foods are typically high in refined carbohydrates, sweeteners and poor quality fats. They are attractively packaged and presented, and are easy to consume. They also taste good. 

Before eating any highly processed food, look at the label and ask yourself, "Do I really need to eat this"? 

#6 Reduce Alcohol

While trying to conceive, studies suggest you can improve your fertility by sharply curtailing your consumption of alcoholic beverages. We hear about some benefits to alcohol consumption, for instance in heart disease; however, when pregnancy is your goal, neither Mom or Dad shoud drink. 

#7 Go Organic

Every year, huge quantities of chemical pollutants are added to our environment. Some of it inevitably ends up in our food supply. Nearly all of these chemicals are toxic to your body and some are "hormone mimics" or "hormone disrupters" that can reduce fertility. [xi]

In addition, monoculture has depleted our soils of nutrients. Foods may appear the same but actually contain lower quantities of nutrients. There was a time when this was a controversial point; however it is now clear that in fact organically grown food has more nutritional value. It costs more to buy, and you are getting more nutrition for your dollars as well. I would also offer the point that we save money on health care costs by enjoying greater over all health thanks to a nutritionally dense diet. [xii]

You can minimize these problems by buying organic foods, or by growing some of your own foods. You can reduce yur toxin intake by learning which conventionally grown foods have the least amount of chemical residue in them The Environmental Working Group helps with an annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”. Find them here:

#8 Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

Over the past few decades, crops have been genetically modified in order to increase crop yields and to improve their processing and marketing characteristics. This increases profits for food growers, processors and distributors. You can rest assured that genetically modified foods were not created in order to improve your health. Genetically modified crops have been introduced on a truly massive scale. It's too early to know how these altered foodstuffs will affect your fertility. Until the food industry can prove to you that genetically modified foods do not impair your fertility, it's best to avoid them.

#9 Reduce Stress

Stress hormones disrupt your other hormones, including your reproductive hormones. They also cause you to gain weight and worsen insulin resistance. To become fertile, focus on reducing sources of stress in your life. This is a huge topic, stress can be very personal and specific. Regular exercise has innumerable benefits, stress reduction being one of them.

#10 Exercise

Exercise reduces insulin resistance, uses up stored body fat, and provides a host of other health benefits. Regular exercise can enhance fertility for most PCOS women.

#11 Lose Weight, just 7-10 % of your current body weight, for significant health benefits

Most women with PCOS who are also overweight are in a state of insulin resistance. Improving the protein content of your diet[xiii]  and regular exercise are key to regaining health, achieving pregnancy and giving your baby the best possible start in life!

If you follow the advice above, you should lose fat weight. It's hard to say how much weight you will lose, but studies show that even a 7%-10% reduction in weight significantly improves the ability to become pregnant. If you are able to lose just 7% of your body weight, your insulin problems should substantially diminish. As insulin resistance declines, your testosterone can also decline and your reproductive hormones will be more able to establish their proper relationship so that you can ovulate and become pregnant. 

#12 Is Your Partner Fertile?

Don't overlook your partner. Over the past 60 years or so, there has been a significant decline in the fertility of many mammals on the planet, including humans. Male and female fertility have both declined. Male sperm counts and motility have dropped dramatically. If you haven't been able to conceive, but you are ovulating, it would be wise for your partner to have his sperm checked for quantity and viability.

# 13 Consider Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements are one way to help tip the balance of your hormones in the right direction. For example, there are a considerable number of supplements that improve insulin sensitivity to some degree. There are other supplements that may help directly with balancing your reproductive hormones. Some supplements are safe additions to your diet that will help you lose weight. Consult with a licensed naturopathic physician or other health professional skilled with nutritional supplementation and how to use it to improve hormone function and increase your fertility odds. 

[i]Giugliano D, Ceriello A, Esposito K, Are there specific treatments for the metabolic syndrome?, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No. 1, 8-11, January 2008

[ii] Petteri Kallio, Marjukka Kolehmainen, David E Laaksonen, Jani Kekäläinen, Titta Salopuro, Katariina Sivenius, Leena Pulkkinen, Hannu M Mykkänen, Leo Niskanen, Matti Uusitupa and Kaisa S Poutanen, Dietary carbohydrate modification induces alterations in gene expression in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in persons with the metabolic syndrome: the FUNGENUT Study 1,2,3,4; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 5, 1417-1427, May 2007

 [iii] Merriam-Webster: XENOBIOTIC: a chemical compound (as a drug, pesticide, or carcinogen) that is foreign to a living organism.,

 [iv] Marsh K, et al. Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:83-92.

[v] Ajani, UA et al, Dietary fiber and C-reactive protein: findings from national health and nutrition examination survey data. J Nutr. 2004 May;134(5):1181-5 

[vi] Sonnenberg, L et al, Dietary patterns and the metabolic syndrome in obese and non-obese Framingham women, Obes Res. 2005 Jan;13(1):153-62.

[vii] Aubertin-Leheudre M, Gorbach S, Woods M, Dwyer JT, Goldin B, Adlercreutz H. Fat/fiber intakes and sex hormones in healthy premenopausal women in USA, J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2008 Nov;112(1-3):32-9. Epub 2008 Aug 9.

 [viii] Adlercreutz H, Höckerstedt K, Bannwart C, Bloigu S, Hämäläinen E, Fotsis T, Ollus A. Effect of dietary components, including lignans and phytoestrogens, on enterohepatic irculation and liver metabolism of estrogens and on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), J Steroid Biochem. 1987;27(4-6):1135-44. 

[ix] Yosefy C, et al, The effect of fish oil on hypertension, plasma lipids and hemostasis in hypertensive, obese, dyslipidemic patients with and without diabetes mellitus Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1999 Aug;61(2):83-7

[x] McCrory, M, Overeating in America: association between restaurant food consumption and body fatness in healthy adult men and women ages 19 to 80, Obesity Res, 1999, 7(6):564-571

[xi] Baker, BP et al, Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets, Food Addit Contam, 2002, 19(5):427-446

[xii] Smith BL, Organic foods vs. supermarket foods: element levels, J App Nutr, 1993, 45(1):35-39.

[xiii] Layman DK, Protein quantity and quality at levels above the RDA improves adult weight loss. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):631S-636S 281

Dr. Nan Dunne

Dr. Nan DunneNaturopathic physician, Author, Womens Health Advocate & Consultant

I would like to help you identify your many strengths, and develop PCOS-problem solving strategies that fit your daily life and move you to your goals. I want to increase your self-knowledge and your skillful self care, and I want you to spend every health care dollar wisely, for safe, effective and cost-effective solutions. 


Please visit today! You can register as a client in my on-line store, HealthWave, and take advantage of great prices on the nutritional supplements and botanical medicines I endorse. You don’t have to commit to a consultation in order to shop there. I hope you will consult, of course, and when you do you will receive an additional discount on your HealthWave purchases. Consultation or not, I want you to be able to access the very best, available-through-doctors only supplements and the other products I use exclusively, thanks to enjoying decades of reliable potency, effectiveness and excellent customer service from the suppliers you will find in my store.