With September being Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month, it's important for women everywhere to understand its challenges when trying to conceive.
Whether you're currently trying to start a family or you're planning for the future, PCOS is a possible hindrance that you can overcome with the right insight beforehand. To give you an idea of how you can still become pregnant despite having PCOS, here's what you need to know:
What is PCOS?
Unfortunately, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine/metabolic disorder in women.
PCOS is a disorder that alters a woman's hormone levels, causing them to produce higher levels of male hormones, which creates an imbalance that may cause them to skip their menstrual cycle and prevent pregnancy. Within the body, PCOS affects the ovaries, disrupting the production of estrogen and progesterone. As a result, many patients with PCOS do not ovulate regularly, making it difficult to become pregnant without help.
Among reproductive issues, PCOS can also cause other challenges for your body and long-term health. Some of these may include...
- Infrequent periods/anovulation
- The lining of your uterus can build and put one at risk for endometrial hyperplasia
- Increased risk of endometrial cancer if left untreated
- Androgen excess; can manifest as hirsutism (unwanted male-pattern hair growth in women),
- Insulin resistance
- Sleep apnea
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
To start, it's important to understand that the criteria used to diagnose PCOS is different according to one's menstrual irregularities, hyperandrogenism, and presence of polycystic ovaries (on ultrasound).
No one knows the etiology of the syndrome. Recently, researchers have postulated that PCOS may be a complex genetic trait, and the syndrome is more of a spectrum—sometimes making it challenging to make a diagnosis. However, most cases are identified by several distinct findings:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Skipped menstrual cycles
- Abnormally high levels of androgen hormones
- Cysts found in the ovaries
- A pelvic exam can be done to look for problems in the ovaries and uterus
- You can undergo a blood test to check insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
Along with these findings, a doctor can examine your physical health and determine the possibility of PCOS by gauging your levels of facial and body hair, the amount of acne on your body, or any weight gain you've experienced over a short period of time. In fact, anovulation can also be associated with increased weight. Losing as little as 5% of body weight may be enough to make big changes in women to resume ovulation and help with other aspects of PCOS like hirsutism and acne.
FAQs to Consider
You no doubt have some questions to ask if you think you may be dealing with PCOS. To offer you some guidance, here are a few questions you may be asking yourself right away...
Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?
Yes. Although PCOS is a problem, you still have options that can help you achieve a successful pregnancy. For example, birth control pills may bring balance to your menstrual cycle, or even weight loss has been known to rectify PCOS symptoms. Make sure you consult with your doctor to see what treatment plans you can undergo moving forward.
What are my chances of getting PCOS?
PCOS mainly affects women between 15 and 45 years of age. Anywhere from 2.2% and 27% of women within this range are diagnosed with the disorder. However, research suggests that close to 70% of women dealing with PCOS go undiagnosed. Overall, your chances are moderately low of getting PCOS, but it's always a good idea to consult with a doctor beforehand, especially if you plan to have children.
Can PCOS be cured?
It's not so much that PCOS requires a cure, but the idea is to get your hormones back into a healthy rhythm. This means that you can take several measures to restore your normal hormone output and increase your odds of getting pregnant. Here are some basic things you can do to kickstart this process:
- Change your diet
- Start exercising regularly
- Lose weight
- Pursue medication treatments like Clomid or Letrozole
- Take Gonadotropins
How is PCOS Treated & How to Increase the Likelihood of Pregnancy
With respect to the information mentioned above, there are a variety of ways to treat PCOS, although treatment is patient-centered and dependent on which symptoms are present. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all.
Lifestyle and diet modifications are always to be tried first, especially in overweight populations. After that, diet is important to develop a sense of nutritional management. Quite often, treatment depends on what the patient’s ultimate goals are.
For instance, weight loss can help regain normal menstrual cycles. Sometimes, if this is not enough, birth control can make a huge difference with hormone levels and provide better assistance alongside healthy lifestyle changes. Ideally, you want management that has a less androgenic progesterone component so it does not exacerbate acne or other physical outcomes that cause stress and other health concerns.
Like if hirsutism is an issue, you can pursue medical management with spironolactone to decrease circulating androgens or you can treat the growth with common depilatory methods like eflornithine cream, light therapy, waxing, electrolysis. If insulin levels spike, insulin resistance can be treated if warranted by metformin and other insulin-sensitizing supplements.
Mainly, your best option is to counteract issues that come up and try your best to be proactive whenever possible. PCOS doesn't have to be a problem if you don't want it to be.
Overcoming PCOS with Kofinas Fertility Group
The main concern of PCOS is always infertility, but with guidance from Kofinas Fertility Group, your concerns regarding PCOS don't have to prevent you from have the family of your dreams.
If patients experience infertility, it is most commonly due to irregular/absence of ovulation. Therefore, it is not the same category of infertility as other patients. Ensuring your odds of pregnancy can be approached with assisting ovulation and timing intercourse. You can also start with ovulation induction if you're a suitable candidate.
No matter what your challenges may be, you can trust that there's an answer available to you. To learn more about PCOS or discuss your fertility challenges or concerns with a fertility specialist, feel free to request an appointment today.