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PCOS Awareness Month: What Is It & How Does It Affect Fertility?

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Did you know that September is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) awareness month? How about the fact that PCOS is the most common ovulatory disorder, affecting 85% of women with ovulatory disorders. And, it's a health condition that affects roughly 7-10 million people worldwide. This is more than the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus combined, according to Dr. Louise Chang in an interview with the PCOSAA.


PCOS is also considered one of the leading causes of infertility.



What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS, discovered by doctors in 1935, is a genetic, hormone, metabolic, and reproductive disorder common among women of reproductive age. While the exact cause for PCOS is relatively unknown, it occurs when a woman produces an abnormal level of certain hormones – primarily androgens, insulin, and progesterone.

  • Androgens are often referred to as "male hormones." All females produce androgens, but women with PCOS often have higher levels.

  • Insulin is the hormone that allows the body to absorb glucose into the cells for energy. And, for those suffering from PCOS, their bodies may not be as responsive to insulin.

  • Progesterone, a crucial steroid hormone in the menstruation process, might be lacking for those with PCOS.

PCOS Symptoms & Treatment

While there is no cure for PCOS, unfortunately, early diagnosis and the treatment of symptoms are possible. Below are some common symptoms of PCOS. And, if you experience two or more of these, it may be time to visit your doctor.

  • Irregular periods

  • Excess facial and body hair

  • Severe acne

  • Small cysts in ovaries

  • Insulin resistance

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Infertility

  • Weight gain

  • Thinning or balding of the hair on your head

  • Fatigue

  • Darkening of skin in patches under your arms, breasts, or on the back of your neck

  • Pelvic pain

  • Headaches

  • Sleep apnea

It may be challenging to get a firm PCOS diagnosis, provided it can be confused with other problems. However, suppose you think you might have it. In that case, it's essential to seek out a doctor's consultation as early detection minimizes your risk of infertility, type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.

At your appointment, your doctor will more than likely:

  • Discuss your symptoms and examine you

  • Review your medical history

  • Take a blood test to check for abnormalities in your hormones

  • Schedule an ultrasound to check for cysts

PCOS & Fertility

As mentioned, PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. However, one should not give up hope! You can still get pregnant and conceive a healthy baby by properly managing symptoms and consulting with your physician.

The cause for challenges in conceiving is the abnormal levels of certain hormones (as mentioned above), which may prevent ovulation. It is also prudent to note that women with PCOS may experience complications during pregnancy such as miscarriage, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and premature birth.

Holistic methods for improving your chances of getting pregnant with PCOS include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Eating healthy

  • Exercise and physical activity

  • Monitoring your menstruation cycle and timing intercourse around ovulation

Slightly more invasive solutions may include:

  • Fertility medications prescribed by a doctor

  • The removal of tissue that produces excess androgens

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)

Facts About PCOS

Below are some statistics and facts about PCOS:

  • It affects roughly 1-in-10 women

  • 50% of women with PCOS are undiagnosed

  • 50% of women with PCOS will develop type 2 diabetes or prediabetes before the age of 40

  • $13.8 billion is the estimated annual cost to the American healthcare system to diagnose and treat women with PCOS

  • 3X is the increased risk of women with PCOS developing endometrial cancer

  • Women with PCOS have a higher chance of needing a cesarean delivery

If you are looking for ways to take action and get involved in the conversation regarding PCOS or are looking for more information and possible PCOS treatments, we encourage you to visit PCOSAA.org!


If you have PCOS or have questions about it, we invite you to share in the comments below, or in our private community.


Sources:

  • New Hope For Women With PCOS - Health University of Utah

  • What is PCOS - PCOS Challenge

  • PCOS and Pregnancy – Pregnancy, Birth and Baby

  • PCOS Overview – PCOS Awareness Association

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