Alternative Treatment Options
Many women struggling with PCOS are finding that conventional treatments may not be effective or an option in their situations.
Often the contraceptive pill is recommended as a treatment option, however for many this is not the solution due to wanting to conceive or not being able to take the contraceptive pill for whatever reason. Metformin is also a very common treatment option for balancing the blood sugar issues, while it works very well for many, again some women this may cause digestive issues and/or they prefer not to take it. For those trying for a baby IVF is often recommended as many are told they will not be able to conceive. In most cases this is not necessary, especially initially, I have found natural treatments to be very successful so would highly recommend that you explore natural first. In some cases where age is working against you we might suggest natural alongside IVF etc. to give your the best and quickest chance of conception.
So what are some of the natural treatment options?
You may which to explore some of the following and see if it may be effective in your situation.
Naturopathic Treatments - This is a natural form of medication that looks at and treats the whole person. In PCOS there are usually multiple contributing factors so getting some thorough testing done and then having an experienced naturopath go over things with you is recommended. Naturopath's can help you balance those hormones and look at lifestyle, diet and exercise specific for your situation and type of PCOS. They will focus on you and your symptoms, your body type and overall health and/or use natural medications and nutrients to correct hormones, cycle irregularities, thyroid and/or metabolism.
There are some fantastic, highly trained and very experienced naturopathic practitioners that can help with your PCOS and fertility concerns.
As a PCOS and fertility naturopath myself I recommend that you look closely at the following when selecting your PCOS naturopath. However, as in every industry there are also cowboys and those that like to overcharge or over prescribe.
Here are some questions to ask when selecting your naturopathic practitioner:
What qualifications do they have? Are they degree qualified?
Are they highly experienced in women's health & hormones and particularly in PCOS? What associations are they registered with... ANTA, ANPA, ATMS, NHSS etc?
Are they insured for the modality or qualification they are promoting?
What are their consultation fees? Initial appointment and follow up?
How long are their appointments (as a general rule 1-1:30 for first appointment is normal, as is 30-60 mins for follow up appointments).
How much product (medications & supplements) do they usually prescribe?
How often do they require you to come back for appointments?
As a bit of a guide, an initial appointment consultation fee with a naturopath can range (for the first appointment which is usually 1-1:30 hours) from $95-$250 depending on experience and qualifications. The amount of product prescribed also varies from practitioner to practitioner, for myself when prescribing for PCOS I find I don't usually need to exceed 3 products in the initial appointment. However, for fertility consultations I might need a few more depending how complex the case is and if male medications are required, as well. Many naturopaths are charging well in excess of $500 for an initial fertility consultation including products. Personally I find this excessive unless it includes a lot of blood tests and other medical procedure or investigations.
How often should you see your naturopath? I like to see my patients every 4-6 weeks, as with hormones time is needed for the medications to begin to work and start to make the changes I want to see. Rarely do I see them more than once per month.
In saying this, I certainly don't want to discourage you from seeing a naturopath for your PCOS symptoms or fertility issues as I know that you can see amazing results with correcting PCOS symptoms, balancing hormones, regulating cycles, boosting ovulation & getting pregnant. I just wont you to find the right one, one that is qualified and experienced to help you get the results you want, for a reasonable fee.
Acupuncture - has been widely used and recommended as an aid for infertility especially in relation to Assisted Reproductive treatments (ART), IVF or FET (frozen embryo transfers). It is believed to help increase endometrial thickness, reduce stress and give a peace of mind during assisted reproductive procedures. Some studies have shown an improvement in sperm quality and ovarian function.
Studies on acupuncture and PCOS as well as IVF or infertility are limited with varying results. Though there does appear to be improvement in insulin resistance, weight loss, cycle regulation, it was not clear as to whether ovulation rates improved via acupuncture or were attributed to other improvement in diet, lifestyle changes and/or relaxation. One of the key affects of acupuncture appears to be its impact on reducing stress and anxiety and the many benefits that brings to the hormonal and adrenal systems. When relaxed it seems that things just happen to function a whole lot better.
With the mixed reviews in mind, do I recommend it for my patients?
Yes, I do. For those undergoing ART, IVF or FET my belief is that no harm can be done (provided your acupuncturist is higher qualified, registered and experienced). Taking into account the amount of money that the ART treatments are already costing, if there is a chance of boosting success and reducing the amount of IVF rounds needed, then it is money well spent. Plus with the results showing an improvement in anxiety and stress then acupuncture can only help at this very stressful time. A relaxed and happy women is more likely to be successful than one with high cortisol having an impact on her hormonal and other body systems.
Yoga &/or Meditation
Still on the topic of stress, depression and anxiety... this is where yoga and meditation type practices can be very helpful
Yoga in PCOS studies has been shown to improve stress management and also aid in weight loss.
Cognitive behaviour therapy was also shown to reduce anxiety and improve quality of life for women with PCOS.