Lifestyle Major Factor in Ovulation for PCOS Patients

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A new study investigates improved chance for pregnancy among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who lose weight and increase exercise.

PCOS is the main cause of female infertility; a condition categorized by the inability to get pregnant even after a year of unprotected sex. The condition can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle which, in turn, can affect fertility (as well as hormones, heart, and blood vessels). While not much is known about this condition many believe that it is hereditary; and current treatments include birth control pills, lifestyle modification, other forms of medication, and surgery.

The study involved 149 obese and overweight women between the ages of 18 and 40 who had been diagnosed with PCOS. Randomly they were assigned birth control pills or lifestyle changes or a combination. The follow-up period showed that only 5 percent of those on birth control pills got pregnant while 13 percent of those who changed their lifestyles improved ovulation.

“The findings confirm what we have long suspected – that exercise and a healthy diet can improve fertility in women who have PCOS,” explains study co-author, Richard S. Legro, MD, who is the Vice Chair of Research and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Sciences at the Penn State University College of Medicine. “Making preconception lifestyle changes is beneficial, either alone or in combination with other pretreatment options.”

In addition, the study authors say, “Expert panels have recommended that women with obesity and PCOS lose weight prior to infertility treatment, primarily on the basis of observational trials supporting a fertility benefit with weight loss.”

Legro goes on to say, “The research indicates preconception weight loss and exercise improve women’s reproductive and metabolic health. In contrast, using oral contraceptives alone may worsen the metabolic profile without improving ovulation. Lifestyle change is an important part of any fertility treatment approach for women with PCOS who are overweight or obese.”


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