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By Aimee Raupp, MS, LAc, Guest Writer
Many of you have requested information about hormonal imbalances, fertility, and other women’s health issues. I’ve asked Aimee, who practices Chinese medicine and works in women’s health, to share a series of articles with you. This is the first one — getting pregnant with PCOS. Aimee has an excellent success rate — 100% so far! Thanks for sharing, Aimee!
What is PCOS?
Dealing with fertility as much as I do in my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice—I see patients with PCOS quite often. Currently, it is estimated that 10% of women between the ages of 18 and 40 have this condition often characterized by hormonal imbalances, multiple ovarian cysts and an irregular menstrual cycle. Generally speaking, PCOS women have too many androgens (male hormones) circulating in their body in conjunction with an imbalance of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. One thing you need to know if you have been diagnosed with PCOS: PCOS is NOT a disease, it is a hormonal imbalance condition and it is reversible.
Clinically there appears two different types of PCOS—the insulin dependent type and the non-insulin dependent type. The first is the “classic” PCOS presentation: weight gain, acne, facial hair and hair loss on the scalp. The PCOS type that is not insulin dependent usually presents as being fairly thin and “wiry” as we would say in TCM terms. Although this is a generalization of the two types of PCOS, typically this is what I see in my clinic.
Upon ultrasound (one of the diagnostic tests completed to confirm PCOS) not all women will show with ovarian cysts. To accurately diagnose PCOS a blood test must look at FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), fasting glucose and insulin as well as testosterone and estrogen levels. I also recommend these patients have a blood serum thyroid panel taken as this can be a cause of PCOS in some patients. Typically all PCOS patients (insulin dependent and non-insulin dependent) will have high testosterone levels and an LH to FSH ratio of 1:1. The insulin-dependent types will have high fasting glucose levels and the non-insulin dependent types will have a normal glucose level.
Okay, so medical specifics out of the way, let’s talk about how best to get pregnant if you have PCOS.
One of the most important things to do is to clean up your diet. By this I mean, eating foods that are organic and pesticide free. Pesticides have what are called xeno-estrogens and can cause and or exacerbate any hormonal imbalance in your body. As well, you must consume organic, grass fed and hormone free animal products. The conventional (non-organic) farm animal is pumped up with hormones and PCOS women don’t need any more hormones in their bodies.
Eliminating any processed white flour and sugar is also imperative—not just for the insulin dependent types, as white flour and sugar increase circulating testosterone levels in the body and will worsen the PCOS condition.
Lastly, you must remove all soy from your diet. Soy foods not only are highly processed and toxic but are also estrogenic and will further disrupt any hormonal imbalance. With some patients, I even go so far as to remove gluten and dairy from their diet as both of these foods are very inflammatory and can exacerbate the PCOS condition.
As well, recent studies have also shown a link between BPA (bisphenol A) exposure and increased incidence of PCOS as BPA has estrogenic properties. So watch your BPA exposure.
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Additional Fertility Help
In addition to dietary changes and weight loss (if needed), I treat my patients with acupuncture to encourage ovulation. As long as you ovulate and attempt to conceive the right time—you can get pregnant. For PCOS women timing is tricky as menstrual cycles can be long and erratic. Often, I’ll have patients use a basal body temperature chart to help us “catch” ovulation as the store bought ovulation predictor kits don’t always work for PCOS patients (due to their imbalanced hormone levels).
Scientific studies have shown that acupuncture plus electrical stimulation can help induce ovulation in PCOS patients and I see that as well in my clinic.
Most all my fertility patients, PCOS ones included, get prescribed individual Chinese herbal prescriptions to help regulate their hormone levels and menstrual cycles. There is no one specific herb I can recommend here as each case is different. See a NCCAOM certified Chinese herbalist for your case.
Lastly, most all PCOS patients show up with vitamin D deficiency. So, get in some vitamin d daily—the best is through 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily. Second best is through taking a daily dose of cod liver oil (high in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin d and vitamin a). My favorite brand to recommend is Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil. Typical dosage is 2 capsules/day of cod liver oil (which gives you about 3,000-5,000 iu’s of vitamin D).
To sum up—the best way to ensure pregnancy when suffering from PCOS:
- Clean up your diet: No sugar, no soy, no white flour. Eat only organic, grass-fed and hormone free animal products. Focus on avoiding all environmental hormones.
- Lose weight if necessary
- Track your BBT daily to pinpoint ovulation
- Get acupuncture to help induce ovulation
- Get in a healthy dose of vitamin D daily
And, most importantly, stay optimistic. I’ve never had a PCOS patient not get pregnant in my clinic. You WILL get pregnant!
Do you suffer from PCOS? If you’ve successfully gotten pregnant, what has worked for you?
Aimee Raupp – acupuncturist, herbalist and author of Chill Out & Get Healthy (Penguin) – practices Traditional Oriental Medicine to help her patients reclaim their health and prevent disease. An active public speaker, Aimee practices in Manhattan and Nyack, NY and is writing a book about fertility. For more information, visit www.AimeeRaupp.com.