Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Many women who have issues conceiving learn that they have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS. This disorder is common among women in their late teens, 20s, and 30s, and a diagnosis of PCOS can be disheartening for those who are trying to start a family.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome falls into the category of hormonal disorder. There is no precise reason as to why it happens but there are a number of factors that seem to play a role in the development of the disease.
- Heredity – Many researchers hypothesize that genes may have a connection to PCOS. Therefore, if your mother had PCOS, there’s a good chance that you’re a candidate for the disease as well.
- Too much insulin – Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. It allows the body’s cells to use sugar as its primary energy source. If your cells become resistant to the actions of insulin, blood sugar levels rise and more insulin is made. That excess insulin can interfere with ovulation.
- Low-grade inflammation – We hear a lot about low-grade inflammation these days. Some doctors say it effects the body in numerous ways and could cause things like obesity or chronic pain. PCOS patients seem to suffer from low-grade inflammation, a type that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgen, which can cause problems with the heart and blood vessels.
- Too much androgen – Those with excessive androgen, which causes facial hair and acne, tend to be candidates for developing PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS very often develops right around the time of a woman’s first menstrual period but can also develop later in life due to other causes, such as substantial weight gain that occurs during the childbearing years. Common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include:
- Infrequent periods – Your periods might be irregular and may not occur monthly.
- Prolonged menstrual cycle – The normal menstrual cycle is 28 days, but for many with PCOS, this cycle is extended to much longer, resulting in perhaps only 8 or 9 periods per year instead of 12.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding – Many women with PCOS experience abnormally heavy bleeding that may last longer than usual.
- Polycystic ovaries – The symptom that gives the disorder its name involves ovaries that are enlarged and which contain follicles that surround the eggs, making ovulation difficult or causing irregular function.
- High levels of androgen – Someone with PCOS may discover they have too much of this male hormone, which can cause physical symptoms such as facial and body hair, acne, and male-pattern baldness.
All of these symptoms can cause a variety of complications including not only infertility but also frequent miscarriages, gestational diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, severe liver inflammation, sleep apnea, depression, and anxiety, as well as several other concerns.
While there is no single test that can identify polycystic ovary syndrome, GYNs and other specialists can examine the ovaries via pelvic exams and ultrasounds to make a determination. Blood tests can be used to examine hormone levels.
Once diagnosed, the PCOS patient will be presented with options that address individual concerns she might have. For example, those concerned about fertility may be given birth control pills or other medications to regulate one’s menstrual cycle while those concerned with acne will be given something else to control that symptom. Other medications can be provided to promote ovulation in PCOS sufferers, like Clomid or Glucophage.
Any treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome will depend on the outcome of testing and the goals/wishes of the patient. For more information on conceiving while dealing with PCOS, see a fertility specialist who works with PCOS patients on a regular basis.Go back