Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the leading cause of infertility in women in the United States. However, that does not mean that women who suffer from PCOS cannot get pregnant — it is simply more difficult since their disorder interferes with their ovulation. Doctors have found ways to treat and mitigate the symptoms of PCOS in a way that can help them get pregnant, and while it is not a guarantee, several women have found success in doing so. Weight loss, including that, provided through bariatric surgery, is becoming one of the most sought-after ways of treating women with PCOS who are looking to become mothers.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder in which patients suffer from enlarged ovaries with small cysts on their outer edges. Women suffering from PCOS can experience various symptoms, such as menstrual irregularity, excess hair growth, acne, and obesity. Frequently, women with PCOS will experience the disorder differently, with different sets of symptoms or experiencing symptoms to varying levels of severity.
The CDC states that as many as 6 to 12% of US women of childbearing age suffer from PCOS, which amounts to nearly 5 million women in the United States alone. Unfortunately, doctors do not know the root cause of PCOS, so it is incurable as of yet. However, it is believed that a combination of environmental and genetic factors may be involved in women developing the disorder.
Weight loss surgery as a treatment for PCOS
Still, there are treatment options for women suffering from PCOS that will help to alleviate some of the symptoms. These include birth control pills, metformin, hair removal procedures, and other hormones. For women who hope to get pregnant while suffering from PCOS, it can certainly be a struggle. These treatments for their symptoms can further interfere with their fertility beyond the challenges posed by the disorder.
Weight loss surgery has emerged as a viable treatment for PCOS with the additional benefit of helping them achieve pregnancy more easily and safely. The relationship between obesity and PCOS is complicated — although over 50% of women suffering from PCOS are obese, doctors haven't determined whether it is the PCOS causing obesity, or vice-versa. That being said, doctors have seen that weight loss can help substantially alleviate some of the disorder's symptoms.
The health benefits of weight loss surgery are unmistakable. Patients who have received weight loss surgery have seen improvements in their cardiovascular health, mental well-being, and joint pain, among other positive health effects. And regarding the symptoms caused by PCOS, bariatric surgery can help improve menstrual irregularities and hirsutism and ameliorate the metabolic profile. Although this type of surgery may seem like an extreme measure to some, the results it consistently yields are worth the discomfort it may cause.
How weight loss surgery helps fertility in PCOS patients
Many women have turned to bariatric surgery as a “last-ditch” effort to get pregnant when all other methods have failed, but this should be seen as a first choice; not a backup plan. In addition to the apparent health benefits of losing weight, bariatric surgery is a much cheaper alternative to multiple rounds of IVF. The toll that multiple failed rounds of IVF treatment can take on a woman — both mentally and physically — is substantial, but bariatric surgery can leave them feeling better and happier.
Additionally, bariatric surgery can help women achieve safer, healthier pregnancies. Studies have found a connection between obesity in expectant mothers, pregnancy complications, and congenital defects. Losing weight through surgery can help reduce the chance of these complications arising. Doctors have even seen women who thought that getting pregnant was not possible later become unintentionally pregnant after having weight loss surgery, showing that this procedure can substantially improve fertility.
Although managing PCOS and its symptoms have historically been challenging, weight loss surgery is quickly becoming a viable solution to help women ease their comfort and restore some normalcy to their lives. Women who are looking to get pregnant, despite suffering from PCOS, have found that this type of surgery has helped them resolve their fertility struggles and allowed them to live much healthier, happier lives in the long run.
About Dr. Laura July
Dr. July decided to dedicate her career to bariatric surgery during her final year of general surgery residency training. While initially moving toward surgical oncology she was fortunate to spend an elective rotation with bariatric surgeon Dr. Emma Patterson in Portland, OR.
When she saw the positive impact on patients, happy clinics, career satisfaction, technically challenging cases, and overall fun practice, she changed paths to a fellowship in bariatric surgery and never looked back.
Blossom Bariatrics offers many different types of weight loss surgery, including a trademarked, patented Safe Sleeve procedure. Patients from all over the world travel to their state-of-the-art surgical center located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Blossom Bariatrics has award-winning surgeons and staff who offer procedures such as gastric sleeve, hernia repair, gastric revision, and single anastomosis duodenal switch (SIPS). They are all dedicated to keeping their patients informed and comfortable while offering an exceptional experience unlike anything else in the medical field.