Fertility dietitian explains how diet and exercise can help those with PCOS on fertility journey
Many Irish women suffer with PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects many Irish women, about ten per cent of women of reproductive age.
Due to the absence of a regular menstrual cycle, some women suffering from PCOS may find it difficult to conceive naturally making PCOS one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
This week I spoke to Sophie Pratt, a fertility dietitian working with Sims IVF, answers some common questions about PCOS, diet and exercise to assist on your fertility journey.
According to Pratt, there is no specific PCOS diet, however, a healthy balanced diet incorporating whole grains, lean meats such as chicken and turkey, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds is advised;
"It is important to limit the consumption of foods that are high in added sugar, saturated fat and salt. Too much of these foods can exacerbate PCOS symptoms and also further increase the risk of long-term health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and fertility problems.
Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, pasta, noodles and bread should be included instead of refined (white) carbohydrates as they are less processed and frequently contain less sugar.
If possible, at mealtimes, adhere to a serving size that equates to a closed fist-full, or approximately one quarter of your plate."
Pratt goes on to say that supplements and exercise are also very important when it comes to improving our chances of conceiving;
"There is promising evidence to suggest that low vitamin D levels may be associated with increased insulin resistance, although more research is needed to further illuminate the strength of the relationship.
In Ireland, due to a lack of sunlight exposure, vitamin D supplementation is recommended for all adults, irrespective of PCOS.
While it is not an obligation, vitamin D supplementation should be strongly considered considering its preservative role in maintaining bone, immune and nervous system health.
While there is no specific exercise recommendation for PCOS, adults are advised to perform at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days per week (or 150 minutes per week).
Moderate activity is when breathing and heart rate increases, yet you are still able to hold a conversation. For those that have been very inactive for a prolonged period, the level of exercise should be increased slowly.
Sophie advises small bouts of exercise such as 5–10-minute walks or a 15-minute cycle throughout the day."
While PCOS often isn’t a problem and can be managed by diet alone, it often means that a woman does not ovulate regularly which leads of difficulty conceiving.
According to Sims IVF fertility experts, for some women with PCOS, the concept of starting a family can feel like it comes with extra challenges.
Many women with PCOS struggle to conceive naturally – or experience a significant delay – due to the absence of a reliable, trackable menstrual period as a consequence of a reduction in ovulation, which is why seeing a specialist early on in your fertility journey is key.