I often talk to my clients about how your emotional well-being can affect your physical well-being; how achieving a strong mind-body connection can have a positive and powerful influence on your chances at conception. Read more
September marks PCOS Awareness Month, and at the Zita West Clinic, we are in full support of raising awareness of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormone disorder that affects around 1 in 10 women in the UK.
At the Zita West Clinic, up to 15 per cent of the women we see have PCOS, we understand that this can be upsetting, and many clients worry that they will never be able to conceive due to the condition.
Our Doctors have years of experience with PCOS and will support and guide you throughout your fertility journey.
We wanted to answer some of the most commonly asked questions:
1. What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Symptoms vary, and some will experience severe symptoms, whereas some may be mild.
Symptoms may include:
- Irregular or no periods
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- irregular ovulation, or no ovulation at all
- Depression or changes in your mood
- Oily skin
- Unwanted facial or body hair (hirsutism)
- Thinning hair or hair loss from the scalp (alopecia)
- Weight problems – being overweight, rapid weight gain or difficulty losing weight
2. Will PCOS affect my fertility and chances of getting pregnant?
The hormonal imbalance that PCOS causes interferes with ovulation, and therefore can affect fertility. PCOS can also affect how regular cycles are, meaning there may be fewer cycles in a year and it is harder for a woman to detect her fertile phase.
PCOS is a treatable condition, so there is a chance that you will be able to get pregnant.
3. Do I need to have IVF?
In most cases, the answer is no, especially if PCOS is your only condition.
Of course, a full personal assessment of the couple is needed, but most patients are able to conceive naturally after a diagnosis of polycystic ovaries.
4. Are there any lifestyle changes I can make?
Symptoms can be improved through dietary and lifestyle changes, including:
- Adding more lean protein, fruit and vegetables to your diet
- Avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol
- Do regular exercise
- Get plenty of good quality sleep
5. How is PCOS treated?
A very simple and effective treatment, when it comes to establishing a normal cycle in at least 50% of the cases, has been proven to be Inositol. When Inositol fails, we are likely to prescribe drugs such as Clomid.
6. Will having PCOS affect the outcome of my IVF?
Normally we have the same good results with PCOS patients that we have with all patients. The only additional risk for PCOS patients is an increased risk of hyperstimulation as a result of the IVF process.
In this particular group of patients, we usually start with smaller dosages of stimulation and we carefully monitor these patients throughout the whole cycle. By doing this, we normally achieve a good control on the hyperstimulation with very good results in terms of pregnancy rate.
We are here to support and guide you.
If you’d like to speak to a member of the Zita West Clinic team about your options, please contact us.
Inflammation and fertility
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or illness. However, prolonged inflammation can lead to insulin resistance and studies suggest it is linked to many conditions that may affect fertility, such as endometriosis, PCOS, implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage.
One of the greatest obstacles to successful implantation of the embryos and the reason why IVF fails in some women is an inflammatory environment, which can be caused by autoimmune and other pro-inflammatory conditions of the immune system. If there is inflammation in the body, it could damage embryos and prevent successful implantation. At the Zita West Clinic we do specialist blood tests to see if this is the case or not. If inflammation is detected, we don’t simply rely on medication to reduce this; the internal environment can also be optimised through appropriate nutrition and improvement in lifestyle. It is also extremely important to reduce the effect of stress, which can impact the immune system, and we use other, holistic treatments – such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy – to help with that.
Reducing inflammation through diet
There are certain foods that are inflammatory and others that help reduce inflammation in the body. Let’s start with the good stuff. Try to increase the following in your diet, because these foods are anti-inflammatory:
- Oily fish – levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish help to counteract the inflammatory effects of omega-6 fats that are found in most meat.
- Certain nuts, like macadamia nuts, which are high in omega-9 fats and seeds like flaxseed, chia and hemp.
- Fruit and vegetables – high antioxidant foods help stem the action of free radicals, which cause inflammation. Orange and dark green vegetables are especially important for their beta-carotene levels.
- Olive oil, which in its raw state contains omega-9 healthy fats and a chemical called oleocanthal, both of which have anti-inflammatory actions on the body. However, once you heat olive oil it becomes pro-inflammatory, so opt for seed oils for cooking instead.
- Spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger help to prevent pro-inflammatory enzymes from acting on your body.
- Green tea
- Propolis (honey bee resin) is a source of caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), which has been found to inhibit NF-kB, which promotes inflammation.
- Apples, onions, berries, brassicas and capers are a good source of quercetin, an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
- Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and yoghurt, should be included regularly in your diet. The gut is an important site for the development and maintenance of immune health and modulating inflammation. Therefore maintaining a healthy digestion is important for addressing long-term inflammation.
- Vitamin D-rich foods, such as oily fish, shellfish, egg yolk and mushrooms.
- Coconut oil contains a beneficial fatty acid called lauric acid, which is also found in human breast milk. Lauric acid converts in the body to a compound called monolaurin, which may help support the immune system. Other fatty acids include capric and caprylic acids, which have antimicrobial properties.
- Vitamin A-rich foods, such as organic liver and eggs.
In addition, try to eat more white fish, beans and pulses as your main protein sources, rather than poultry and red meat. Although turkey and chicken are fine in moderation, in general animal protein is considered more inflammatory for the body than fish and plant protein. You may wish to limit your intake of red meat and dairy products, as they contain arachidonic acid, which the body can use to make inflammatory eicosanoids.
Unsurprisingly, the pro-inflammatory foods in our diet comprise refined carbohydrates and sugars, excess saturated fats, processed foods, junk foods and hydrogenised (or partially hydrogenised) fats. Avoid them as often as you can. Caffeine and alcohol are pro-inflammatory, too.
Finally, avoid stress. Although this isn’t a dietary cause of inflammation, stress is almost certainly contributing to inflammation in your body. Support all the good work you’re doing with your diet by adapting your lifestyle to reduce stress, too.
For a detailed nutrition consultation tailored for you either in the clinic or by phone, contact us here.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the changes that occur in nature in the Autumn are also reflected within changes in our bodies. The organs Traditional Chinese Medicine focus on in Autumn are the lungs and colon, and the element associated with autumn is metal. Now is the time to go inside as the evenings draw in, eating the warm, colourful foods nature provides at this time such and pumpkins and squash which are rich in beta carotene and great for ovary health. Fermented foods are also great to eat at this time of year and are important for gut health.
Make the most of beautiful autumn days and focus on breathing and the lungs, topping up with your vitamin D levels to boost your immune system ready for the winter.
The energy of the lungs is all about “letting go”, so let go of grief and anger, repair old relationships or prune and cut out what you are not happy with in your life. This is the season to make the changes and prepare for the harvest!
With the lovely news from Harry and Meghan, we thought we’d share with you some tips for getting through the first few months. Early pregnancy, especially the first time around, is a very exciting time but it is also easy for anxiety to creep in and many women can feel overwhelmed. The first few weeks of pregnancy can be exhausting on so many levels; emotionally, physically and mentally. No matter who you are you, Duchess or not, your emotions at this time will be the same and this is something I see on a daily basis. If you have never been pregnant before it’s a steep learning curve, and as a midwife there are many common questions I am asked in early pregnancy:
How do I know I’m still pregnant?
This can be a really emotional time, not just because of the hormones but all of the worries about whether it will be ok with the pregnancy, especially if you are older. Before you start showing in these early days it can be so hard to actually ‘feel’ pregnant. One day you experience nausea, the next day you don’t, and new hormones are kicking in that you have never experienced before making you emotionally fragile. The exhaustion you’ll feel in your first 12 weeks, especially having to work and adapt to the pregnancy without telling anybody can really take its toll. Even if Meghan doesn’t suffer as much as her sister-in-law, nausea affects 70% of women which can sap energy further.
I’m not eating as well as I should…
Eating a good diet can be hard in the beginning as you are getting used to what your body needs with when and what to eat. Sometimes it is not always the healthiest of choices with many women craving carbs where they have tried to avoid these foods before. Plus with nausea kicking in it can mean eating what you are able to to get through the first few weeks which is fine. This is why it’s so important to build up a good store of nutrients before you get pregnant.
I feel worried all of the time, can stress affect my baby?
While Meghan is no different biologically to any other pregnant woman, she does have the added pressure of getting through engagements and having the world watching her. Constant stress on a daily basis may affect your baby, so learning to manage stress in early pregnancy is key.
Tips for getting through first trimester
- Look at what’s going on in your life and what you can cut back on. If you work long hours, try to cut down here, and limit yourself to lots of commitments that can exhaust you.
- Make sure you have early nights where possible to build your reserves and get you through the next day.
- Accept that this this will only be for a couple of months and you’ll soon be feeling much better, give in to it where you can.
- Don’t have any alcohol or coffee in the first trimester.
- Eat little and often to keep your blood sugar balanced. In early pregnancy you need to tune in to what your body requires. Nausea and tiredness can be a vicious cycle: you feel sick so you don’t want to eat, but if you don’t eat then your blood sugar drops and nausea sets in. When it gets to this point it is hard to quell, so have snacks at hand throughout the day and I also encourage women to have something to eat just before bed to balance the blood sugar through the night. It’s a long time from dinner until breakfast which is why many women wake in the morning with nausea.
- You need carbohydrates for energy and the developing baby, but for so many women I see they have been used to cutting carbs out and are nervous about how they crave them in pregnancy.
- Deal with your stress early on. Chronic stress can be detrimental so make sure you manage this. The best way is to practice visualisation or meditation for 20 per day, but if your issues are greater then make sure you seek help through counselling.
- Take a multivitamin and mineral continuing folate, as well as omega 3. Many women worry in early pregnancy that they are not eating as well as they should, so top your nutrients up with supplements.
- Nurture yourself. In my experience this is the one time that women really feel they can pamper and nurture themselves. Rest whenever you feel you need to, get as much sleep as you can, and look after yourself from within.
- Don’t listen to any labour horror stories – concentrate on the positive and if anyone starts to tell you their story, ask if it’s positive, and if not, then continue that conversation post birth!