Weight loss and regular exercise has been linked to improved fertility among overweight women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) according to a study conducted by the medical team at the Penn State College of Medicine.
PCOS has been described as a condition that causes a woman's body to produce higher than normal amounts of testosterone and other sex hormones that are naturally associated with male characteristics. Frequently PCOS sufferers have irregular menstrual periods, weight gain, acne and excessive facial and body hair.
The condition is the most common cause of infertility, and affects an estimated 5 million women only within the United States due to the hormonal imbalance, but can reportedly be ameliorated by a change in lifestyle.
Women recruited in the study were split into three groups- an oral contraceptive arm, lifestyle arm, and combined arm - where the oral contraceptive arm served as the control. PCOS is a common hormone disorder that leads to infertility.
Compared with baseline, there was a significant increase in metabolic syndrome within the pill group (OR = 2.47; 95% CI, 1.42-4.27); no changes were found with the lifestyle or combined groups.
As all the participants in the study were overweight or obese, it remains to be seen whether or not the lifestyle modification in the form of regular exercise and adhering to a healthy diet is effective at improving fertility among women with PCOS who already have a healthy weight. After the intervention, the participants underwent four cycles of ovulation induced by medication. Out of the total of 50 women who incorporated both exercise and healthy diet with birth control, 13 were able to give birth.
Findings revealed that women who participated in the lifestyle modification intervention and took birth control pills were more likely to ovulate than those who were assigned to just take birth control pills.
"The research indicates preconception weight loss and exercise improve women's reproductive and metabolic health", Dr. Legro said. "Lifestyle change is an important part of any fertility treatment approach for women with PCOS who are overweight or obese". The lifestyle modification not only resulted in weight loss, but in improved metabolic health and a better chance for ovulation and pregnancy. The standard treatment usually comprises of a course of oral contraceptives which are given to boost the ovulation cycle which can have adverse side effects in deterring conception.