If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, your gynecologist might have mentioned testing for polycystic ovary syndrome. This disorder is one of the most common reasons for infertility, and it affects between five and 10 percent of women according to OBGYN professionals.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a condition in which cysts form on a woman's ovaries. In response to the cysts, the body begins to produce more hormones, including the male sex hormone. It's this fluctuation in hormone levels—not the cysts—that are responsible for most of the symptoms of PCOS.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS has a wide variety of symptoms, including acne, weight gain, insulin resistance, and facial hair. Some women notice that the hair on their scalp begins to thin as hair on their chest and face becomes thicker. Women with PCOS usually experience irregular menstrual cycles, and may have difficulty getting pregnant.
If left unchecked, PCOS can lead to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, infertility, and endometrial cancer. Women with PCOS who do become pregnant are two to three times more likely to suffer a miscarriage. Researchers have yet to determine exactly why those with PCOS have such a high rate of miscarriages, though some believe it's due to the higher levels of male sex hormones. High insulin levels may also play a role.
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose PCOS, your gynecologist or doctor will usually listen to your symptoms and perform a physical examination and a pelvic exam. They may also check your insulin and hormone levels. An ultrasound of the ovaries will help detect any cysts, as well.
How is PCOS treated?
PCOS is usually treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Your doctor may recommend following a balanced diet, high in fruits and veggies and low in calories. You may also be encouraged to stick to a regular exercise program. These lifestyle changes should aid in weight loss, which may lead to a reduction in PCOS symptoms.
Birth control pills or hormone injections may be used to help regulate your body's hormone levels. Special medication that aids in ovulation may be used while you're trying to get pregnant. Once your hormone levels are in check, some of the physical side effects of PCOS should begin to subside.
Can a woman with PCOS still get pregnant?
In spite of the challenges, women with PCOS can get pregnant. A pregnancy may have to be closely monitored in order to avoid miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy complications, but women with PCOS are still capable of delivering healthy babies.