Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a frequent condition among women that prevents them from ovulating normally – among other things.
It affects women from an early age and it is one of the main causes of infertility. It is also very common, affecting from 5 to 10% of women in a fertile age.
If you are one of the many who have to deal with such a hassle, don’t miss the following lines. Here at CaptainMums, we will try to answer any question you may have about it.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder related to obesity in which the woman who suffers it produces too much of the hormone androgen, which is popularly known as a “masculine” hormone – but that it is necessary in order to produce oestrogen, the “feminine” hormone and one that is essential for pregnancy.
This hormonal unbalance provokes irregularities in ovulation, which means the woman with PCOS may ovulate very little and without a regular cycle or that she may even not ovulate at all.
When discussing pregnancy, this lack of ovulation is the most important consequence of PCOS, but, unfortunately, there are others. The excess of androgen may also provoke you to get acne and an excess growth of facial and body hair. It is also closely related to obesity.
Finally, there is another consequence of PCOS: it is also closely related to insulin resistance, which may cause your sugar levels to increase and put you in risk of suffering from diabetes as well.
What causes PCOS?
Doctors haven’t been able to find a cause for having polycystic ovaries. The hormonal unbalance is due to the growth of multiple small cysts in the ovaries – which are not harmful in any other way. This seems to run in the family, that is, it seems to be genetic and inheritable. The odd thing is that it can be inherited also from your father’s side, even if it’s impossible for a man to have a polycystic ovary! But you can inherit it from his mother or his grandmother.
Since the causes haven’t been determined, it is also unclear whereas the relationship of PCOS with an increased amount of insulin or obesity is a relationship of cause or of consequence. Being overweight will make you produce more insulin, so, if you maintain a healthy weight, the consequences of PCOS will be easier to deal with – but more on that later.
What are symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS symptoms will typically appear during a woman’s teen years or during her early youth. At least, the symptoms are easily recognisable:
- Menstrual irregularities or lack of ovulation
- Obesity, weight gain or difficulty to lose weight
- Acne or oily skin
- Alopecia or thinning of the hair, together with an increase of body hair and facial hair
- Fertility problems
- Depression (due to hormonal unbalance or as a consequence of the symptoms above).
How can I be diagnosed from PCOS?
It is important to diagnose PCOS as soon as possible, since early treatment will help improve the symptoms and may help with fertility in the future. Besides, in the cases where the woman is overweight and has an overproduce of insulin, it will help reduce the risks of suffering from type-2 diabetes and even heart disease.
The doctor will be able to diagnose PCOS if you present the clinical profile explained, since there aren’t tests that show a diagnose. However, he or she will still run some tests (like a blood test to check your hormonal balance) and a physical exam to confirm the diagnosis.
Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome dangerous?
Typically, no, it isn’t dangerous, but there are some symptoms that could get out of hand, like the irregular periods. Call the doctor at once if you have severe vaginal bleeding or are passing clots. You also need to call the doctor if you notice some of the symptoms of diabetes, like frequent urination, fatigue or loss of appetite.
How does PCOS affect my fertility?
Unfortunately, PCOS and infertility are closely related, the former being one of the main causes of the latter – which is no surprise, considering that the condition consists in the production of an excess of masculine hormones and its main symptom is lack of or irregular ovulation. However, there are fertility treatments for women with PCOS.
Will I ever be able to get pregnant?
It’s difficult to say a clear yes, because there is always the unwanted possibility that you can’t have a baby – PCOS is, after all, one of the main causes of infertility. However, the success rate among women with PCOS who have undergone a fertility treatment is very high, so don’t throw in the towel just yet – you have lots of chances of becoming a mum. Doctors count with a variety of treatments to treat PCOS in terms of fertility. You can read all about your chances of welcoming a baby into your life in this other article about getting pregnant with PCOS.
Is there any treatment for PCOS? Can it be cured?
Sadly, there isn’t a cure for PCOS, or a specific treatment – only the symptoms can be treated, so the treatment itself will be designed by your doctor according to the specific symptoms you are showing and if you are trying to get pregnant. There is certain medication that helps with hormonal balance, but it will be your doctor who decides what’s the best treatment for you.
Don’t be disheartened by the perspective of not being able to cure it. Seeing your doctor regularly is the best treatment for PCOS that you can have, since having it under control will help lots to prevent some wicked consequences, such as diabetes, heart disease and even uterine cancer – and, of course, those related to fertility, like the inability to get pregnant or miscarriages.
Is there anything I myself can do to make it better?
Definitely! Besides having regular check-ups, the best treatment for PCOS is on your own hands: having a healthy lifestyle. First of all, quit smoking (did you know that women who smoke have more androgens that the non-smokers?); eat a healthy and balanced diet and do regular exercise. It is essential that you keep control over your weight – obesity will surely worsen all the symptoms, starting with insulin resistance and ending with infertility.
Suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is something you will have to accept and learn to deal with. You will have to make an extra effort to achieve some things that are essential in life, like being healthy, and also for others that may be important for you, now or in the future, like staying fit or becoming a mum. However, it is not impossible even if it’s more difficult: Try to face it with a positive attitude. With the adequate treatment and consciousness of what you’re dealing with, suffering from PCOS won’t prevent you from doing anything you want to do.