Last week we received a letter from a very distressed reader about her struggle with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and the complications the condition presents when trying to conceive. We contacted the charity Wellbeing of Women and they asked UK expert Professor William Atiomo for some advice.
Dear Ellie & Leo
I’m a 34 year old suffering from text book PCOS, which I had diagnosed 15 years ago. In the last 3 years I have ballooned in weight and feel like I can only shift a little and then then stay the same or put the weight back on again.
I have been under a consultant for fertility at the hospital as myself and my partner have been trying for a baby for one and a half years. I have had blood tests which have confirmed that I’m not ovulating as I should be due to my PCOS and I have been prescribed 50mg Clomid and have been told by the consultant that my diet is too high in carbs and I need to cut them out and eat more protein instead. This also needs to be done in order for me to lose weight, which I think is my biggest struggle. The rest I think (and so does the consultant) will come once I get my diet right and lose the bad carbs.
I have changed my diet this week but I am frustrated as I don’t know the balance – which carbs are good for me, can I eat small amounts of these throughout the day? How much protein I should be eating? I’m also desperate for some variety as I am getting bored of having eggs every morning with smoked salmon or avocado. It’s also affecting my bowel habits.
I really need help in knowing what to eat and at what time, to help my severe PCOS, so that my periods regulate again and for the Clomid to help me ovulate so I can fall pregnant.
I am really so upset today. I normally give up at this point but I know I can’t because I really want to get better, lose weight and have the baby that I have been longing for, for years. Please help.
I am sorry to hear what you are going through. This is not an uncommon issue in women with PCOS. With respect to diet and PCOS, the key appears to be to reduce the total daily caloric intake (by reducing food portion sizes for example). This appears to be more important than the type of diet. You should aim for a daily total caloric intake of around 1400 per day. Some people find it useful to keep a food diary. A low glycaemic index diet appears to be associated with improved menstrual regularity. Moderate regular exercise alongside these dietary changes should also help. Finally, patience, motivation and persistence are very important.
Clinical Associate Professor in Gynaecology
University of Nottingham, UK