PCOS? What’s that? And what does it have to do with fertility? The answer to that last question is, “a lot.” PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it affects fertility in about 10 to 15 percent of women of childbearing age, according to the PCOS Foundation. At New York Reproductive Wellness, we know that a PCOS evaluation is one of the important parts of a fertility evaluation.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Hormones
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder. It can cause high testosterone levels. Women normally produce small amounts of testosterone, but with PCOS, their levels are much higher than normal. The excess testosterone can prevent ovulation, which is how it affects fertility. PCOS also upsets other hormonal mechanisms, like insulin regulation. Remember, insulin regulates blood sugar, and problems with insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes.
PCOS and Other Health Problems
Aside from its effects on fertility, PCOS is a health problem. It increases the risk of insulin resistance, which occurs when the body cells stop responding to insulin. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. PCOS also increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Scientists aren’t sure if that’s because it tends to coexist with obesity or for some other reason.
Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Women with PCOS may be lean, overweight or obese. They may have multiple cysts on the ovaries, pelvic pain and excessive hair growth, especially on the face. Male pattern baldness (forehead and up to the crown) and acne are also signs of ppossible PCOS. Women with PCOS may have irregular, infrequent or absent menstrual periods. PCOS tends to run in families, so the odds are high there’s a genetic connections. PCOS can occur in girls as young as 11 and symptoms may persist after menopause as well.
Making A Diagnosis
PCOS is actually the most common cause of female infertility, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. PCOS can’t be diagnosed with a blood test. The diagnosis is based on your medical and family history and your symptoms. The doctor will perform a physical eexamination and may check hormone and blood sugar levels with blood tests. A vaginal ultrasound can be used to determine if you have ovarian cysts.
How is PCOS Treated?
PCOS can’t be cured; it must be managed. In addition to lifestyle modifications to help you get to or maintain a healthy weight, your doctor may suggest birth control pills to regulate your menstrual cycles. If you want to become pregnant, there are various treatments available. You may also need help to deal with the emotional aspects of having PCOS.
Close to half of all women with PCOS are never diagnosed, accroding to the PCOS Foundation, which is why an evaluation for this condition is so important if you are having fertility problems. New York Reproductive Wellness offers PCOS evaluations along with many other diagnostic tools and treatments for infertility. Call us today to schedule a consultation.