Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that impacts the lives of approximately 8%-13% of females of reproductive age. Many more females remain undiagnosed. Although much is unknown regarding PCOS there are certain symptoms those who suffer have in common.
What Causes PCOS?
Doctors currently cannot identify an exact cause for PCOS. Because it involves the endocrine system doctors look at the thyroid and other glands, but they don’t know the exact cause. Females with PCOS have an imbalance of the reproductive hormones that stems from an overabundance of the male androgen hormones.
When you ovulate, your brain produces a hormone that sends signals to your ovaries that it’s time to mature and release an egg. Because of interference from the male hormones, the ovaries don’t fully develop and release the egg. Ovulation doesn’t occur.
When you don’t ovulate, you may have a light period, an irregular period, or no period at all. Because you don’t ovulate, there’s no egg and fertilization are impossible. And because you don’t fully shed the lining of your uterus a fertilized egg likely wouldn’t implant anyway.
As you can see PCOS has a serious effect on your fertility. But what, if anything, can doctors do? First let’s take a look at some of the more common symptoms of PCOS.
Common Symptoms of PCOS
Polycystic means many cysts and for a good number of females with PCOS those cysts grow in the ovaries. But not all who suffer have cystic ovaries. In addition to ovarian cysts people with PCOS may experience:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Abnormal hair growth on chest, back, stomach and face
- Severe acne
- Male pattern baldness
- Weight gain that is very difficult to shed
- Insulin resistance (Your blood sugar is high because it doesn’t respond to insulin.)
While the symptoms sound like definite cause for concern among females the number one reason for a diagnosis of PCOS is the inability to conceive. Most females don’t see a doctor until they experience trouble getting pregnant. And PCOS accounts for nearly a third of all infertility diagnoses. It is one of the most common infertility issues as well as the most common ovulatory disorder. If you’re experiencing infertility and have any of the above symptoms, please see your doctor. Your doctor can test your hormone levels and also perform an ultrasound to confirm any cysts in your ovaries.
Treating and Controlling PCOS
Once your doctor confirms PCOS you may need to begin taking birth control pills. Although this sounds counterproductive to fertility the estrogen/progestin block production of androgens and regulate your period. After a few months of birth control meds, they may restore your ovulation.
Weight-wise PCOS is a catch-22. Excess weight may contribute to PCOS as well as be a symptom of PCOS. If you are overweight, your doctor tests your insulin levels. If it is apparent, you are insulin intolerant your doctor typically prescribes a medication to help control your insulin/blood sugar balance along with a diet and exercise program to help you lose the excess weight. This may restore ovulation.
PCOS and Fertility Treatment
For those females trying to conceive a PCOS diagnosis definitely complicates matters. However, don’t rule out pregnancy. Many couples and individuals dealing with a PCOS diagnosis go on to grow their families with the help of advanced reproductive technology.
Depending on the degree of PCOS your doctor may recommend you begin medications that help with ovulation. Your best chance for conceiving and carrying a baby is IVF. If medication isn’t an option or your eggs aren’t viable you may consider IVF with a donor egg.
PCOS and Pregnancy
Once you are pregnant your doctor must keep a close watch on your progression. This is because females with PCOS have a three-time higher risk for miscarriage than those who don’t have PCOS. Other common pregnancy risks with PCOS are:
- Gestational diabetes
- Preeclampsia (dangerously elevated blood pressure)
- Preterm birth
- Delivery complications that may result in a cesarean section.
Each Case is Unique
Remember each case is different and unique to the patient’s diagnosis. You and your doctor determine the best course of treatment and how you proceed when you conceive. With the right care you can improve your fertility and lower your risk for difficulties during pregnancy.
See Your Doctor
If you’re experiencing difficulty conceiving and you and your partner are unsuccessful after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (six months if you are a female over age 35) and if you have any of the symptoms of PCOS contact LA IVF. Our caring providers help you achieve your goal of growing your family through multiple options. Contact LA IVF today.