Taking Omega-3 for PCOS and Endometriosis

Written by Cassi O'Brien
Reviewed by Kimberly Langdon
Getting Pregnant

For most women, getting pregnant is not a difficult task. For others, the first step towards motherhood can be full of obstacles. Certain health issues like PCOS and endometriosis, as well as lifestyle factors, can lessen the chances of conceiving. Diet, including the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, are particularly important factors that can affect the likelihood of getting pregnant. So, let’s find out if omega-3 fish oil can help with PCOS and endometriosis.

Omega-3 for PCOS

PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine disorder. There is no known cause for why the disorder develops, but it is one of the leading causes of infertility. It is marked by a hormone imbalance with increased levels of insulin and luteinizing hormone (LH). Whilst sufficient levels of LH are necessary for ovulation, an increase of LH causes testosterone to be produced in larger amounts than is normal for the female body.

Women with PCOS may experience irregular, fewer or no menstrual periods. The lack of menstruation, lack of ovulation (egg release) or delayed ovulation, severely lessens the chances of conception.

Omega-3 and hormone imbalance in PCOS

There is no ‘medical cure’ for PCOS, but the effect it has on the body can be reduced with hormone treatment. Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly aid in this treatment due to its ability to balance and regulate hormone profiles.

When tested, these fatty acids were seen to lower both LH and testosterone levels, which means taking omega-3 during preconception and pregnancy is a good idea. The study that demonstrated this result involved participants taking 1,500 mg of an omega-3 supplement daily for a period of six months. With a lower amount of testosterone, the female reproductive system can function better and release an egg at the right time.

Omega-3 appears to regulate other hormone imbalances as well. A 2015 study found that omega-3 supplementation increased the amount of adiponectin in women. This hormone is naturally found in higher amounts in women and is associated with a healthy reproductive system.

Women with larger amounts of adiponectin are more likely to get pregnant. With an improved amount of adiponectin, the study showed that menstrual cycles became more regulated. This means that the eggs were being released within the correct cycle and conception would be easier to achieve.

omega-3 during pregnancy

Omega-3 for Endometriosis

This condition occurs when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. The severity of endometriosis varies but up to 50% of women with the condition experience infertility.

Uterine tissue growing outside the uterus can irritate the surrounding tissues, leading to inflammation. The repeated inflammation can then lead to scar tissue forming and that can hinder the function of the reproductive system.

Endometriosis can damage the fallopian tubes, thus stopping the eggs from reaching the uterus. When the ovaries are affected, the release and quality of the eggs can be adversely affected. In severe cases, it can distort the position and anatomy of the organs in the pelvic region.

The main treatment for endometriosis is removing the tissue through surgery or suppressing the growth with hormones. Hysterectomies are a common outcome with the condition because once the damage is done, it’s not easily reversed. However, there may be ways to prevent the development and severity, keeping the condition from affecting fertility.

Omega-3 intake may play a part in the risk of developing endometriosis, especially a low intake of EPA. A 2014 study found that women who had a high intake of EPA appeared to be less likely to develop endometriosis, indicating that fatty acid could be effective as a preventative approach.

Omega-3’s effect on inflammation

After the condition has already developed, omega-3 fish oil may be useful at suppressing it. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids have been well studied and the ability to fight against inflammation is considered one of the most beneficial effects of omega-3 supplementation. Since endometriosis causes inflammation that leads to reproductive system damage, omega-3 can play a positive role in dealing with the condition. If less inflammation occurs, there will be less damage and a lower chance of the condition leading to infertility.

This theory was tested in a study conducted in 2013 involving mice and it was shown that inflammation associated with endometriosis was suppressed. Although it was conducted with mice, many previous studies regarding omega-3 and inflammation suppression with human participants have shown similar results so it’s relatively safe to say that the anti-inflammatory effect on endometriosis seen in the mice is similar to the effect that would be seen in humans.

Should you take omega-3 for PCOS and endometriosis?

Whether infertility is caused by PCOS, endometriosis, or simply a poor diet, omega-3 can offer a safe and effective approach to getting pregnant. The ability of these fatty acids to regulate hormones and stop inflammation can battle two of the most common obstacles hindering conception. While it is not a cure-all, regular supplementation with omega-3 during preconception and pregnancy is a good idea. As you’ve learned in this article, omega-3 may be able to help with PCOS, endometriosis, and infertility in general.

References

Adiponectin. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from https://sites.google.com/site/miscarriageresearch/hormones-and-miscarriage/adiponectin

Hopeman, M., Riley, J., Frolova, A., Jiang, H., & Jungheim, E. (2014). Serum Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Endometriosis. Reproductive Sciences, 1083-1087. doi:10.1177/1933719114565030

Nadjarzadeh, A., Dehghani-Firouzabadi, R., Daneshbodi, H., Hassan Lotf, M., Vaziri, N., & Mozaffari-Khosravi, H. (2015). Effect of Omega-3 Supplementation on Visfatin, Adiponectin, and Anthropometric Indices in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Journal of Reproduction and Infertility, 16(4), 212-220.

Oner, G., & Muderris, I. (2013). Efficacy of omega-3 in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 33(3), 289-291. doi:10.3109/01443615.2012.751365

Tomio, Kensuke, Kei Kawana, Ayumi Taguchi, Yosuke Isobe, Ryo Iwamoto, Aki Yamashita, Satoko Kojima, Mayuyo Mori, Takeshi Nagamatsu, Takahide Arimoto, Katsutoshi Oda, Yutaka Osuga, Yuji Taketani, Jing X. Kang, Hiroyuki Arai, Makoto Arita, Shiro Kozuma, and Tomoyuki Fujii.(2013). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Suppress the Cystic Lesion Formation of Peritoneal Endometriosis in Transgenic Mouse Models. PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073085

Torsten Mangner (Photographer). (2006 January 24). Schwangerschaftstest[digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/alphaone/94603992