PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that occurs in women of reproductive age. In addition to causing a number of other symptoms, it can affect fertility and the ability to carry a pregnancy to term. While the disorder cannot be cured, it can be managed by experts like those at New York Reproductive Wellness.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome – the name comes from a tendency to form cysts in the ovaries – is a life-long disorder that has a genetic basis. It may occur in as many as one of 10 women, according to the Center for Young Women’s Health. While all women produce small amounts of testosterone, the ovaries of women with PCOS produce additional amounts of this male sex hormone, leading to such symptoms as excess facial hair. The diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and hormone levels.
Symptoms of PCOS
Irregular or even absent menstrual periods are one of the first signs of PCOS, which typically shows up in the teen years. The excess testosterone can cause increased growth of facial hair and hair in other parts of the body. Acne is also a sign of PCOS. Women with PCOS tend to gain weight easily and find it difficult to lose weight. They are at risk of diabetes and heart disease as they age. Another sign of PCOS is patches of dark skin on the back of the neck and other areas of the body – acanthosis nigricans.
PCOS and Fertility
The combination of irregular periods and hormonal disruption means that women with PCOS don’t usually ovulate on a regular basis. Excess levels of estrogen suppress ovulation. In addition, higher testosterone levels mean that even when an egg is released, it may not be viable or of good quality. Women with PCOS are at higher risk of complications if they become pregnant. Gestational diabetes – a disorder of blood sugar regulation – is more common, as are miscarriage and prematurity.
Weight loss is one of the most important aspects of PCOS treatment; low carbohydrate diets are often the best choice. Regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day – is critical. Oral contraceptives can help balance hormones. Fertility evaluation and treatment is also available. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) can help women conceive a pregnancy. Careful management can help women carry that pregnancy to term.
PCOS can’t be cured, but it can be managed. If you think you might have PCOS, please contact New York Reproductive Wellness at 516-605-2626. Our office is located at 300 Oyster Bay Road in Syosset, NY and serves the greater New York area. We offer a wide range of fertility services for both men and women as well as extended and Saturday hours to meet your needs.