Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – Is it Common?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of child bearing age. It affects around one in ten women globally. While it can affect fertility, and lower your chances of conception, there are things that can be done to improve your chances of having a baby.

What Is PCOS?

PCOS is a condition that interferes with the natural process of ovulation. Women with PCOS have a higher level of a male hormone known as androgen. This stops the egg being released from its follicle. The follicles remain in the ovaries as cysts, making it very difficult, but not impossible, to conceive.

What Causes PCOS?

While doctors are not entirely sure what is the actual cause of  PCOS, there are factors which are believed to be linked to the condition.

  • Genetics: PCOS has been shown to run in families. You are more likely to have it if someone in your family has it.
  • Being overweight or obese: it is not clear if  being overweight causes PCOS, or if PCOS causes weight gain. Either way, there is a link with increased weight and PCOS. If you have this  condition it is important to focus on eating a healthy diet, especially a diet that includes fresh and whole foods.
  • Too Much Insulin: women with PCOS often have elevated levels of insulin in their blood. Insulin is the hormone that regulates how you break down sugar. This can also be linked to the weight gain associated with PCOS, and higher levels of insulin are known to increase levels of androgen. A sensible well balanced diet, again is helpful to avoid some of the unwanted consequences from elevated circulating insulin.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of PCOS?

Often the first signs of PCOS is an irregular or absent period, but this isn’t the only sign. However, if you’re periods are irregular don’t automatically assume that you have PCOS. With PCOS you may also notice weight gain, excessive hair growth or thinning hair, skin tags, darkened skin patches, pelvic pain, weight gain, depression, sleep apnea, and anxiety. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with PCOS.

* The symptoms of PCOS can be present in many other conditions so it is important that you see your health care provider for professional advice.

How to Treat PCOS?

While there is no cure for PCOS, symptoms can be managed through lifestyle changes.  Studies suggest that losing between five and 10 percent of body weight can make a significant difference to symptoms. If you are not trying to conceive, use of a birth control pill can also assist with symptom management.

Trying to Conceive with PCOS

It is possible to induce ovulation if you are trying to conceive but are having difficulty due to irregular periods. There are various ways to do this and your health practitioner will recommend the most appropriate option based on your individual medical history.

Pregnancy with PCOS

Women with PCOS who successfully conceive are at higher risk of some pregnancy complications such as  miscarriage,  gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and preterm birth. To increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy keep in  close contact with your health care provider so they can manage any issues as they arise. Eating well and remaining active during pregnancy has also been shown to be helpful.

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