How to Ovulate With PCOS

Four Methods:Talking With Your DoctorUnderstanding Medication and Treatment OptionsEstablishing Healthy Lifestyle HabitsUnderstanding PCOS and Infertility

If you suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you're not alone. Between 5-10% of American women of childbearing age are estimated to suffer from some form of PCOS, and it is the leading cause of female infertility.[1][2] While it is most common in adolescents and adult women, PCOS can occur in girls as young as 11.[3] Up to 70% of women who suffer from PCOS are undiagnosed.[4] Women with PCOS often suffer from insulin resistance, where your body produces insulin but does not use it effectively.[5] Women with PCOS often have a family history of insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.[6] While PCOS can't be cured, you can work with your doctor to treat its symptoms.

Method 1
Talking With Your Doctor

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    Learn how doctors diagnose PCOS. The most commonly used diagnostic criteria for PCOS are the “Rotterdam criteria.” A diagnosis of PCOS may be made when two of the following criteria are present:[7]
    • Androgen excess. Androgens are hormones produced by both men and women. However, they are present at higher levels in males.[8] Androgen excess in females can cause symptoms such as:[9]
      • hirsutism (abnormal or excessive hair growth)
      • acne
      • androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness or hair thinning/loss)[10]
      • weight gain, especially localized around the abdominal area[11]
    • Ovulatory dysfunction. The most common sign of ovulatory dysfunction is irregular menstrual cycles.[12]
      • Frequent bleeding (more often than every 21 days) may be a sign of ovulatory dysfunction.
      • Infrequent bleeding (less often than every 35 days) may also be a sign of ovulatory dysfunction.
    • Polycystic ovaries. The ovaries must be examined by ultrasound. Your doctor will check your ovaries for:
      • Bilateral enlargement (>10 cc)
      • Quantity and size of follicles (generally 12 or more, measuring 2-9 mm)
      • Multiple follicles of similar size
      • Peripheral location of follicles, which can give a string of pearl appearance
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    Make an appointment to see a doctor. There is no one single test that can confirm a diagnosis of PCOS. Your doctor will need to perform several examinations and tests. Your primary care physician or your gynecologist can usually do basic examinations and tests. He or she may also refer you to a specialist for further testing.[13]
    • If you have PCOS and are having difficulty conceiving and wish to conceive, you may be referred to see a reproductive endocrinologist. These doctors specialize in treating PCOS with the goal of increasing fertility.
    • If you have PCOS but do not want to conceive or are not having difficulty conceiving, you may be referred to see a medical endocrinologist.
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    Talk with your doctor about your symptoms. Because PCOS can cause so many symptoms, it is important to tell your physician about all the symptoms you are experiencing. Even if you do not think the symptoms are related, give your doctor a full account of any symptoms you have.[14]
    • Make sure you also give your doctor a full medical history. Make sure you note if any family members or relatives have a history of diabetes, insulin resistance, or symptoms of androgen excess.[15]
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    Know what medical procedures to expect. Your doctor will perform several examinations and tests to help determine whether you have PCOS. You can expect the following procedures to be done, either by your general physician or gynecologist, or by an endocrinologist.[16]
    • Medical history. Your doctor will ask about your menstruation, weight, and other symptoms. S/he will probably also ask whether you have relatives who have been diagnosed with diabetes, insulin resistance, or PCOS.
    • Physical exam. You will probably have your blood pressure, BMI, and hair growth examined. Other symptoms of PCOS, such as acne and thinning hair, can also be checked during this exam.
    • Pelvic exam. Your doctor may want to check for swelling or growths. Usually, these exams are manual (the doctor uses his or her hands to examine the pelvic area) and by ultrasound.[17]
    • Blood tests. Usually, your doctor will check the levels of androgens and glucose (sugar) in your blood. S/he may also ask to collect urine for analysis.
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    Ask your doctor questions. Once you have been given a diagnosis of PCOS, there are several questions you may want to ask your doctor.[18] Consider asking the following questions:
    • What medications are available that may improve my symptoms?
    • Are there medications or treatments that can improve my ability to conceive?
    • What do I need to do to manage this condition with my other medical conditions?
    • What side effects can I expect from my treatment?
    • What long-term health implications are likely due to PCOS?

Method 2
Understanding Medication and Treatment Options

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    Consider hormonal birth control. If you do not want to conceive, consider talking with your doctor about hormonal birth control. “Combination” birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin can help you regulate your menstrual cycles, reduce male hormone levels, and help clear up acne.[19] They will also reduce your risk of developing your endometrial cancer. Skin patches and vaginal rings that contain these hormones may also be an option. Your doctor will help you find the option that is right for you.
    • Medications that contain only progesterone offer some of the benefits of combination birth control. They will help control your menstruation and reduce your risk of endometrial cancer. However, they will not help with symptoms related to androgen excess, such as acne and hair growth.[20]
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    Ask your doctor about Metformin. Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet, etc.) is an oral medication for type 2 diabetes.[21] Your doctor may prescribe metformin to treat your insulin resistance and lower your body’s insulin levels. Research has also suggested that metformin may help with cholesterol levels and weight management.[22]
    • People with a history of liver or heart disease may not be able to take metformin safely. It is vital to tell your doctor about your history of any liver or heart conditions.[23]
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    Consult with your doctor about fertility medications. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to help stimulate ovulation. Talk with your doctor about any pre-existing medical conditions or symptoms so that s/he can find the medication that is best for you.[24]
    • Your doctor may prescribe clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene) or letrozole (Femara). These are oral medications that you take at the first part of your menstrual cycle to stimulate ovulation.[25] You will likely ovulate within 5-10 days after taking clomiphene or letrozole.[26]
    • You should tell your doctor if you have endometriosis, uterine fibroids, a history of liver disease, or thyroid issues.
    • Side effects of clomiphene or letrozole may include hot flashes, headaches, and breast pain/tenderness.[27]
    • You should also be aware that in from 7-10 out of 100 pregnancies that result from clomiphene or letrozole therapy, multiple implantations occur. Twins are the most common.[28]
    • If clomiphene does not work on its own, your doctor may prescribe a combination of metformin and clomiphene.[29]
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    Consult with your doctor about gonadotropins. If clomiphene treatment does not work, your doctor may prescribe gonadotropins.[30] Gonadotropins are hormones that stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple follicles (cysts that contain eggs).[31] Injections are usually started on the second or third day of your period and continued for 7 -12 days.[32] These treatments can be expensive, so talk with your reproductive endocrinologist to make sure that they are right for you.
    • Gonadotropin injections have a relatively high success rate. Of the women who ovulate after gonadotropin therapy and don't have other factors compromising their fertility, up to 50% become pregnant within 4 to 6 ovulatory cycles.[33]
    • Up to 30% of pregnancies from gonadotropin therapy are associated with multiple implantations. Most multiples are twins, although in 5% of cases it may be triplets or higher.[34]
    • Talk with your doctor about side effects. Most side effects from these injections are mild, but in some cases they may be more serious. A mild form of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) may occur in 10-30% of gonadotropin patients, and a severe form in about 1% of cases. In the severe cases, OHSS can cause nausea, vomiting, weight gain, blood clotting, and other serious symptoms.[35]
  5. 5
    Consider In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). In IVF, a fertilized egg is surgically placed into the uterus.[36] It is quite effective. However, IVF can often be expensive and is usually considered as an option when less expensive treatments have not worked.[37] Talk with your doctor about whether you are a good candidate for IVF.
    • People with PCOS respond strongly to fertility medications, so they are often at higher risk for multiple births. IVF allows for the highest degree of controlling the possibility of multiple births.
    • IVF may cause Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which can be serious and under extremely rare circumstances can even be fatal.
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    Ask your doctor about surgical laparoscopy. Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling, or Ovarian Diathermy, is a type of surgical treatment that can help stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS. It is not common and is generally considered a last resort for women for whom other fertility treatments have failed.[38]
    • Ovarian drilling is done under general anesthesia. A surgeon clinically destroys part of the ovary using a laser or other device. This reduces the amount of testosterone produced by the ovaries, which can increase your possibility of ovulating.[39]
    • A few studies suggest that about 50% of women are able to become pregnant within a year after having this procedure, at least under the best possible circumstances.[40]
    • Ovarian drilling has serious risks, including infection, internal bleeding, injury to internal organs, and scarring. Always talk with your doctor about the risks and side effects before considering this procedure.[41]
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    Maintain regular communication with your doctor. When taking any medication or treatment, it is important to work closely with your doctor. This is especially important when you are taking reproductive treatments or therapies.[42] Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any side effects from your medication.
    • If you are seeing multiple doctors for your PCOS, such as a primary care physician, gynecologist, and endocrinologist, make sure to keep everyone informed about your health. If you experience any symptoms or side effects from treatment, make sure that your health care providers are aware.

Method 3
Establishing Healthy Lifestyle Habits

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    Understand the role of insulin. Insulin is a hormone manufactured by the pancreas. It plays a significant role in regulating metabolism. Your digestive system will break down carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, into glucose (sugar). Insulin allows your body to absorb and use glucose as energy.[43]
    • Women with PCOS often have a condition called insulin resistance.[44] Insulin resistance causes glucose levels to build up in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed by the body. This can cause prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.[45]
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    Eat a low glycemic index diet. Obesity amongst women with PCOS may be as high as 80%.[46] Because women with PCOS have difficulty processing insulin, it is important to eat a diet that does not cause large variations in blood sugar.
    • Limit processed foods and foods with lots of added sugar. These foods offer little in the way of nutrients and can impact your blood sugar levels.[47]
    • Watch your calories. You may wish to consult with a dietician or nutritionist to determine your optimal calorie level. If you have obesity related to PCOS, reducing your calorie intake may help you lose weight.[48]
    • Eat complex carbohydrates. It is not recommended that you severely restrict carbohydrates. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, barley, brown rice, and beans. These carbs are high in fiber and are digested slowly, so they don’t cause huge spikes in your insulin levels.[49]
    • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables have fiber and plenty of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.[50]
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    Exercise. Exercise can help improve weight loss and reduce your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular complications.[51] Exercise can also help regulate your blood sugar levels.[52][53]
    • Aim for at least 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, such as aerobic exercise.
    • Studies have shown that physical activity makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin. This can help lower your blood glucose levels. Exercise can also help your muscles absorb glucose without needing insulin.[54]
    • Even small weight loss levels, between 5%-7%, can be enough to reduce androgen levels and help restore fertility.[55]
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    Stop smoking. Studies show that women who smoke have higher androgen levels than non-smokers.[56] Smoking can also aggravate insulin resistance.[57]
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    Treat unwanted hair. Many PCOS sufferers will experience excessive or unwanted hair growth. The medications your doctor prescribes may help reduce this symptom. Waxing, shaving, and tweezing may be enough to reduce unwanted hair for many women. However, you can also remove unwanted hair by using the following treatments:[58]
    • Laser hair removal. Laser hair removal is a very common procedure that can permanently eliminate unwanted hair after 3-7 treatments.[59] Laser hair removal must be performed by a professional. It can be expensive, and is usually not covered by insurance.[60]
    • Electrolysis. Electrolysis permanently removes unwanted hair with heat or chemicals. These treatments must be done by a professional. Electrolysis may be more successful at permanently removing hair than laser removal.[61]

Method 4
Understanding PCOS and Infertility

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    Recognize common physical symptoms of PCOS. PCOS produces a variety of symptoms. These symptoms may vary between women. Not all women will have all symptoms. The symptoms of PCOS are often similar to other medical conditions, such as thyroid disease and Cushing’s syndrome. You should consult with your physician to ensure the correct diagnosis is made.[62] Common symptoms of PCOS include:[63]
    • irregular menstrual cycles
    • acne
    • irregular hair growth in typically “male” locations such as the chest, back, and face
    • hair thinning or male-pattern baldness
    • obesity or weight gain, especially with weight around your waist
    • infertility
    • pain in the pelvic area
    • Your doctor will be able to determine symptoms that you cannot, such as androgen levels in the blood or high cholesterol levels.
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    Recognize psychological symptoms of PCOS. Several studies have shown that women with PCOS have a higher prevalence of depression than those who do not.[64][65] PCOS is also linked to higher levels of anxiety and panic attacks in women.[66] Depression and anxiety have many causes, most of which are complex. The presence of depression or anxiety alone is not enough to indicate PCOS. However, you should see a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety.
    • Symptoms of depression vary between women. Women with depressive disorders do not necessarily have all these symptoms. However, common signs of clinical depression include:[67]
      • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or worthlessness
      • Feelings of hopelessness
      • Irritability
      • Fatigue and low energy
      • Changes to appetite
      • Changes in sleep habits
      • Trouble concentrating and remembering
      • Loss of interest in things or activities you used to enjoy
      • Suicidal thoughts or actions
    • Symptoms of anxiety may also vary. You may not experience all of these symptoms. However, common signs of an anxiety disorder (as opposed to occasionally feeling anxious) include:[68]
      • Feelings of panic, uneasiness, or fear
      • Changes in sleep habits
      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, dry mouth, muscle tension, nausea, and dizziness
      • Fidgeting or restlessness
      • Shortness of breath, or difficulty catching your breath
    • Women with PCOS may also be more likely to suffer from an eating disorder.[69][70]
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    Determine whether you are suffering from infertility. If you have been having unprotected sex (i.e., not using any form of birth control) for more than one year and have been unable to conceive, you should consult with your doctor.[71]
    • Many conditions and factors can cause infertility, so infertility alone does not mean you have PCOS. However, PCOS is often a culprit.
    • About 30% of infertility problems are due to male infertility. Another 30% are due to female infertility. The remaining cases have unclear causes or may be a result of both partners’ infertility.[72]


  • Avoid self-diagnosing. PCOS shares many symptoms with other conditions or diseases. Your doctor is the best one to diagnose you.
  • Discuss everything with your doctor. He or she can answer any questions you have, provide other medications, and work one-on-one with you.


  • Refined carbohydrates such as sugar and bleached white flour can spike blood glucose levels and raise insulin levels. Try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates as much as you can.
  • Never take any medication or treatment without first consulting your doctor. Severe side effects and even death could result.

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Categories: Women’s Health