According to a post on Endocrine Today, a group of Swedish researchers have discovered that women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) are more likely to have gestational diabetes, large babies, pre-enclampsia, premature babies and advanced age. I could have told them that without the effort of studying over 3000 women who had the condition. Why could an amateur have told them that? OK, so I’m an amateur but having suffered PCOS for more than 25 years I have learned a few things along the way.
Firstly, women with PCOS are at a high risk of developing diabetes. I believe the current stats are twice as likely as members of the normal population. We are certainly already in a pre-diabetic state. It is insulin-resistance that causes most of the symptoms of PCOS in 80% of cases, according to Endocrinologist Warren Kidson. So, I would have said if we are already insulin-resistant before we get pregnant, then gestational diabetes is going to be highly likely. In both of my pregnancies I have demonstrated diabetic sugar levels from the first few weeks. This also explains the likelihood of women with PCOS having larger babies, especially if their sugars are not managed with metformin / insulin and a carefully followed low GI diet throughout pregnancy.
I read that women with gestational diabetes are far more likely to have pre-enclampsia. Women with PCOS are more likely to have high blood pressure due to the hormonal imbalances in their body, especially the lack of progesterone, the calming hormone. If they go into a pregnancy with high blood pressure then they are already more at risk of pre-enclampsia. It’s another logical follow-on from a typical PCOS symptom.
I’m not sure of the exact reason why women with PCOS are more likely to have premature babies. My first thought is a combination of the previous few paragraphs – gestational diabetes, high risk of pre-enclampsia, large babies – all good reasons for premature births. Another reason? Most women with PCOS are obese which presents a few complications to a healthy pregnancy and could prompt a premature birth for various reasons.
Advanced age? Well, this would be because it takes so frickin’ long for women with PCOS to conceive. After trying the old fashioned way, they usually need a bit of medical intervention to conceive. That might be as simple as assisted ovulation, or as complicated as IVF.
It is no surprise that pregnancy is as affected by the symptoms of PCOS as the rest of our lives are. Diana West and Lisa Marasco in their book ‘The breastfeeding mothers guide to making more milk’ explains that PCOS doesn’t just affect pregnancy, it affects breast feeding too. Don’t be surprised. Deal with it. Move on.
I am 34 weeks pregnant. Today is officially the beginning of my colostrum expressing month. Rather than let this condition beat me, I am taking it by the neck. My bub will feed on my expressed colostrum during the first few days of life while we are waiting for my milk to come in. For some women with PCOS / Gestational Diabetes, it can take a week or more for their milk to ‘come in’. During that time, I will be trying to feed bub and hand-expressing every couple of hours until I am able to successfully feed my baby.
If you think about this Swedish study, I have had two typical PCOS pregnancies. But I don’t have to have a typical PCOS birth or breastfeeding experience. I’ll fight to change what I can.