If you’re looking for some help with your fertility when trying to conceive with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), then read on to find out what helped dietician and pilates instructor, Jodie to get pregnant.
Over to Jodie…
www.balancedjo.com | @balanced_jo
When I was diagnosed with PCOS in my early twenties, I was told very little about it. Like most others, I found myself consulting Dr. Google – ‘conceiving with PCOS’ and the results were pretty devastating; ‘May have difficulty conceiving’ is what I remember reading before I burst into floods of tears. I knew I wasn’t ready to have children right then, but I was 100% sure that it was something I wanted in the future.
I was told that going on a hormonal contraceptive, for now, would help with all my symptoms and that I had nothing else to worry about until I was in a position where I was ready to start trying to conceive.
After about 5 years on an oral contraceptive, I decided I’d had enough of simply putting a plaster over my ‘wounds’ and wanted confirmation that my body could function on its own. If it couldn’t, I needed to learn how to help it because being on the pill was not going to help me fall pregnant one day.
Related Article – Fertility Blog: Jade’s PCOS Struggles
Conducting My Own PCOS Research
Armed with my degree in dietetics, I started doing loads of research about what I could do to improve my symptoms without medication or the pill. And, oh boy, was this insightful!! There is so much nonsense and ‘nutribollocks’ out there about what you should/shouldn’t do to help overcome your PCOS symptoms. It took a lot of sifting, but I got there eventually – I finally reached a place where my acne had cleared up and I went from never having periods to a regular monthly cycle. Woo hoo!
Roughly three years after this, my partner and I decided we wanted to try to conceive. We knew that the sooner we started the better because it might take a little longer than others due to my PCOS. I won’t go into the details of our fertility journey, as I covered this in a previous blog post that you can find here. This article is mainly about what we believe helped us to conceive; hopefully it will help others on their fertility journey too.
Related Article – Losing Weight Before Pregnancy: Fighting PCOS
List Of What Helped Us
1. Sleep – We forget how important sleep is. Research has proved that when we are even just a little sleep deprived we make poorer food choices and are more susceptible to the effects of stress. I’m an eight hours a night kind of girl, so I tried my best to get my full eight hours. Sure, this isn’t always possible, but when it is take it! Avoiding any screens an hour before bed and creating a calming night-time routine can help you fall asleep a bit quicker. A bath filled with Epsom salts and lavender oil became a frequent indulgence for me.
Related Article – Fertility Blog – Can Insomnia Affect Your Fertility?
2. Stress management – Over the years I have come to realise that stress is one of the biggest contributors to my PCOS. When I’m stressed, my symptoms flare up, including my cycles going wonky. So, finding a way to manage my stress levels was incredibly important for me. I used the Calm app for daily meditation. I was by no means consistent – I skipped days now and then but tried to do it as often as possible. I also learnt to say ‘no’, which is so hard when you’re running your own business, but the benefits of creating boundaries quickly became clear.
Fertility Springboard Podcast – Fertility Yoga
3. Acupuncture – This is linked to stress management, but the benefits of acupuncture for fertility extend far beyond this. The evidence for fertility acupuncture in PCOS is growing and shows that somehow (they’re still figuring out exactly how) it helps with ovulation and to regulate androgen levels. I used the lovely Hannah Pearn, who specialises in acupuncture for fertility and I can’t recommend her highly enough.
Related Article – Acupuncture for Fertility – Advice from Fertility Expert Emma Cannon
4. Inositol – Inositol improves ovarian function and metabolism of women with PCOS. It does this by decreasing insulin resistance, reducing testosterone levels, regulating menstrual cycles and promoting ovulation in women. Inositol also supports normal lipid (blood fat) levels and improves egg quality in women trying to conceive.
5. Vitamin D – We started trying to conceive in the summer, so I originally wasn’t worried about Vitamin D. However, as we moved into winter, I started taking a Vitamin D supplement as I do every winter. The months then got warmer. I continued taking Vitamin D anyway, as we were in lockdown and weren’t getting out and about as much as we usually would.
Related Article – Fertility Specialists – Why Vitamin D is Vital for Immunity and Fertility
6. The FERTI·LILY Conception Cup – A friend had shared an article with me about using a moon cup to help with conception, which I thought was a really interesting concept but I wasn’t quite ready for that step. Inserting a cup inside your ‘foof’ felt like a pretty big thing to do and something I just couldn’t quite get my head around yet. Then, as if by fate, I saw a competition on Instagram by Fertility Help Hub, for a cup that is similar to a moon cup but that has been designed specifically to help women conceive. I thought ‘what the hell’, entered the competition – won, and it arrived the week that I was allegedly ovulating. (I say allegedly because, although I used the ovulation detector app CLUE, to track my cycles, these things are never 100% accurate, especially for those of us conceiving with PCOS). We started using it straight away and that was the month we fell pregnant! Go figure.
Fertility Help Hub readers can benefit from a whopping 30% off The FERTI·LILY conception cup here with discount code HUB30.
7. It Starts With An Egg – A client of mine recommended this book, and whilst some of the information and evidence in there is great, it’s important to remember that some of the studies referenced include very small groups of people and are not necessarily robust enough to make solid recommendations. I took from this book what I wanted and what I felt I could change. The biggest change we probably made was to continue to keep our use of plastics low. I bought some glass storage containers for foods and tried to use these as much as possible over plastic (NOTE: I did not throw out our plastic containers as that would be wasteful).
8. I Stopped Tracking – Whilst I will always recommend using an app like Clue to keep track of your cycles and help you notice any patterns, ovulation detector kits are not always accurate when it comes to letting you know when you ovulate. At the very beginning, I bought myself a thermometer and did my daily temperature, but this soon became an unhealthy obsession and one that added to my stress, when I couldn’t see any patterns or dips or spikes in all the right places. I kept an eye on cervical mucus but, to be honest with you, I never experienced that oh so fertile stretchy, egg-white mucus (not even the month I fell pregnant). It’s easier said than done but try not to get caught up in all the science and what everyone else experiences – no one has your exact genetic make-up and body – what your body does and how it behaves is truly unique.
Related Article – TTC – Charting Your Sex Hormones with Temperature
Because it takes two people to make a baby, my fiancé also took the following supplements:
9. Inositol (again) – I did some research that showed that inositol helped with improving sperm motility (their sense of direction) and morphology (their shape), as previous tests had shown these were slightly lower than average.
10. Wellman Conception – These contain vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium which are known to help improve the health of sperm.
Related Article – Male Supplements For Fertility: It’s Time to Swap Your Multivitamin for a Men’s Prenatal
11. Alcohol – This is not one he added to his list but removed. He wasn’t drinking a lot, but he decided to give up alcohol completely until we conceived. Luckily for him this only lasted around five weeks (three weeks in, we conceived) and it was lockdown so there was no social pressure to drink.
Now I’m not saying that the above list is the answer for everyone, and it’s hard to know which of the things listed did the trick; or perhaps it was a combination of everything we were doing that helped us on our journey? We’ll never truly know.
What I hope you’ll notice is there are no extremes in the list above. I did not eliminate certain foods from my diet or follow any crazy diet / exercise regime. I was gentle with my body and put more focus on sleep and stress management than I did on food and exercise. It’s so easy to feel like you have to do everything to take control of the situation but often that can do more damage than good.
Be gentle with yourself and make small changes over time that you feel comfortable with and try and enjoy the process: baby making is meant to be fun after all.
Related Article – Conception Help – Help Prepare Your Body For Fertility With The Right Supplements
The FERTI·LILY are currently offering 30 of our readers a chance to win one of their conception cups, during this uncertain time. So, if you’d like to give one a go, enter now.