If you’re wondering how to get pregnant with PCOS, did you know that a balanced PCOS diet plan can actually help you get pregnant?
If you have PCOS, you’ve probably heard that it may be more difficult to get pregnant naturally. While this is true, here’s two things you should know: first, it’s definitely not impossible to get pregnant naturally with PCOS; and second, there’s a lot more in control than you may have initially realized.
Hi, I’m Alyssa, a registered dietitian who specializes in PCOS. I have PCOS too, so I understand the PCOS infertility struggles firsthand. After managing my own PCOS symptoms with a healthy PCOS diet and lifestyle changes, I’ve had two successful and healthy pregnancies. I’m here to help you take the confusion and overwhelm out of managing this condition!
If you’re looking for a PCOS diet plan to get pregnant, I’ve got you covered. This blog post will explain how PCOS and your diet affects fertility, what a PCOS fertility diet looks like, and I’ll also provide you with a downloadable 7-day PCOS diet plan to get pregnant PDF.
First though, let’s recap what PCOS is so that everything else will make sense.
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What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common medical condition that affects an estimated 6-12% of women of reproductive age (1). Contrary to its name, polycystic ovaries are not required to have a PCOS diagnosis.
Although it can present in a variety of ways, some common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, weight gain, hair loss, hirsutism, acne, and fatigue.
PCOS is closely linked to insulin resistance, chronic low-grade inflammation, and high levels of androgens (aka male hormones such as testosterone). Having this condition also increases your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Ok, you may have already known this about PCOS, but now let’s talk about how this impacts your fertility.
How Does PCOS Affect Fertility?
PCOS is the leading cause of anovulatory infertility, accounting for more than 75% of these infertility cases (2).
Irregular menstrual cycles are a common symptom of PCOS, which means you’re also likely experiencing either irregular ovulation or a lack of ovulation. If someone has a menstrual cycle every 28 days, they’d have 12-13 menstrual cycles per year. This means they’d ovulate 12-13 times per year and have 12-13 chances to get pregnant.
For someone with PCOS who has irregular periods, they may only have 5 periods per year with true ovulation occurring. This translates to only 5 chances to get pregnant. Also, when you don’t know if and when you’re going to ovulate, it can make it difficult to properly time when to have intercourse.
PCOS can also impact the quality of your eggs. With a high prevalence of insulin resistance among those with PCOS, high blood sugar levels can alter egg quality. Research also shows that obesity negatively impacts egg quality (3). While weight loss may be beneficial, it’s not the only thing that will dictate your fertility chances. Your diet can dramatically impact your egg quality, regardless of what your weight may be.
Unfortunately, PCOS may play a role in recurrent miscarriage for some women also. Research has shown that the prevalence of PCOS in those with recurrent miscarriage is slightly increased (4).
The good news is that a balanced diet can manage PCOS symptoms and absolutely improve your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS. Let’s talk about what a fertility diet for PCOS looks like!
Fertility Diet For PCOS
Although getting pregnant and staying pregnant may be a little more difficult with PCOS, the foods you eat can really improve your fertility chances!
The goal of a PCOS fertility diet is to target the underlying hormonal imbalances while including anti-inflammatory foods that will improve egg quality.
Side note: don’t forget it takes two to tango! It seems like as soon as we know we have a PCOS diagnosis, the weight of getting pregnant falls on the female. But a man’s sperm quality plays a big role in your ability to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and have a healthy pregnancy with PCOS. Most of the diet information discussed in this section is just as valuable for your partner as well so make sure to share it with him!
Foods To Increase Your Fertility With PCOS
There are many nutritious foods you’ll want to eat to increase your fertility with PCOS. A PCOS friendly diet for fertility includes a variety of whole foods from different food groups.
Here are some of the best PCOS-friendly foods for fertility to include in your diet:
- Vegetables such as dark leafy greens, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes
- Whole Grains such as whole grain bread, quinoa, oats, brown rice
- Lean Proteins such as chicken, lean red meat (beef, pork), seafood, tofu, tempeh
- Fatty Fish that are low in mercury such as salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines
- Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame
- Healthy Fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado
- Prebiotic Foods such as asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, oats, apples, beans
- Probiotic Foods such as fermented dairy products (kefir, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese), sauerkraut, kimchi
Here’s a few meal ideas to show how you could actually implement these foods in real life. Be sure to grab the full, 7 day PCOS diet plan to get pregnant PDF below too!
Foods To Limit Or Avoid
There aren’t any foods you need to completely avoid when trying to conceive. So while these foods aren’t entirely off limits, it’s best to intentionally choose foods from the category above more frequently.
Foods to limit or avoid if you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS:
- Ultra processed foods and meats such as fast food, sausage, hot dogs, ultra processed deli meats like salami
- Sugary drinks such as regular soda, sweetened tea, energy drinks, fruit juice
- High sugar foods such as pastries, cookies, cake, brownies, candy
- Refined grains such as white bread, white rice, white pasta
- High mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish
- Unhealthy fats (saturated fats and trans fats) such as fatty cuts of meat, bacon, sausage, butter, ghee, coconut oil
- Caffeine should be limited to less than 200mg per day during pregnancy, which is the amount in about 12 ounces of coffee (5). It may be a good idea to start limiting it while you’re trying to conceive.
- Alcohol is not safe to drink while you’re pregnant. It’s likely a good idea to limit or avoid alcohol when you’re trying to conceive. Too much alcohol can increase inflammation and potentially worsen egg quality.
Important Nutrients For PCOS Fertility
If you haven’t realized, nutrition can be so powerful in helping to boost your fertility with PCOS. There are a few essential nutrients that can play a really big role in ovulation, egg quality, and fertility.
Aiming to increase your nutrient intake from whole foods as part of a healthy diet is one of the best ways to increase your fertility. But in general, women who are trying to conceive should also be sure to take a high quality prenatal vitamins supplement.
Let’s take a look at some of the nutrients that you should be aware of and which foods are good sources of each.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone, so it should come as no surprise that someone with the hormonal disorder PCOS has a higher risk of also being vitamin D deficient. In fact, one study found that 67-85% of women with PCOS are deficient in vitamin D (6).
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with heart disease, high blood glucose levels, high insulin levels, type 2 diabetes, infertility, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, and a weakened immune system.
Women with higher levels of vitamin D had higher pregnancy rates. So be sure to talk to your medical provider about getting your vitamin D levels checked!
Good food sources of vitamin D include fortified dairy products, egg yolks, salmon, trout, mushrooms, fortified foods such as plant milks, and cod liver oil. However, it’s important to note that cod liver oil isn’t recommended during pregnancy because of its vitamin A content.
Zinc is a mineral and antioxidant. Low levels of zinc are associated with ovulation issues, infertility, estrogen imbalances, inflammation, and several symptoms of high androgen levels such as hair loss, acne and hirsutism (aka unwanted hair growth).
Good sources of zinc include oysters, shellfish, red meat, poultry, rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashews, Greek yogurt, and cheese.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids play a significant role in fertility and a healthy pregnancy. There are several types of omega 3 fatty acids, including ALA, DHA, and EPA.
Our bodies cannot make ALA omega 3’s so we must get these from food sources or supplements. Your body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, however, it doesn’t do this very effectively. It’s important to also get adequate EPA and DHA in your diet or take a quality supplement.
Food sources of ALA omega 3’s include chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
DHA and EPA in particular can decrease inflammation, increase egg quality, and improve ovulation rates. These omega 3 fatty acids are also important for normal fetal brain development and may reduce premature births (7).
Food sources of EPA and DHA include salmon, albacore tuna, anchovies, and sardines. The current recommendation is to consume fatty fish twice per week to obtain the health benefits of these types of omega 3’s. If you don’t eat fatty fish routinely, a fish oil or omega 3 fatty acids supplement may be helpful.
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that prevents the development of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in early pregnancy. It also boosts progesterone levels and promotes regular ovulation.
Food sources of folate include spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, and asparagus.
Your PCOS Diet Plan To Get Pregnant
This 7 day PCOS diet plan includes nutritious foods in unique combinations, combining high-fiber foods with lean protein and healthy fats. The meal plan includes recipes for 3 meals and 1 snack per day, along with a grocery list to get you started.
This PCOS diet plan for fertility will address the underlying hormone imbalance, improve ovulation rates, and improve egg quality to increase your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS.
Recipes For Fertility
Although there are several recipes in the PCOS Diet Plan To Get Pregnant above, here are some more PCOS-friendly recipes for fertility that I love:
Lifestyle Factors That Affect Fertility
Besides the right diet, a healthy lifestyle can impact your fertility as well. The following lifestyle factors can influence ovulation, hormone levels, and egg quality:
- Adequate sleep – aim to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night
- Stress management can decrease cortisol levels and improve egg quality
- Regular exercise such as strength training or cardio can improve insulin sensitivity and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight
- Smoking can reduce fertility rates and hurt your chances of conceiving. It’s recommended to stop smoking.
The Bottom Line
PCOS is the number one cause of anovulatory infertility. This can make getting pregnant more of a challenge. Diet and lifestyle can play a major role in improving your fertility and overall health. Making changes to your diet is the best way to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Foods to eat as part of a PCOS diet for fertility: whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fatty fish, legumes, and healthy fats.
Foods to limit or avoid when trying to get pregnant with PCOS: highly processed foods and meats, fatty meats, sugary drinks and foods, high mercury fish, caffeine, and alcohol.
A high quality prenatal vitamins supplement is recommended when trying to get pregnant with PCOS. Lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress, and exercise can also influence your fertility.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment of any health conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Your unique PCOS management should always be discussed with your healthcare provider.