PCOS is short for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is a common disorder affecting 1 in 10 women who are of childbearing age. PCOS is usually caused by reproductive hormonal imbalances and problems with metabolism. Not only can PCOS affect the overall health and appearance of a woman due to hormonal imbalances, it is known to be one of the leading causes of infertility among women.
Symptoms of PCOS
How do you know you may have PCOS? Are there any tell-tale signs? There may not be any signs for women who are using contraceptive pills. The pill can make you have a period every month but it can be a false period because it is not related to egg production. Therefore, the pill can mask the condition for many years.
If you are not on the pill, women who are likely to have PCOS will show some of the symptoms mentioned below:
- Missed or irregular menstrual periods
- Higher level of male hormones can show as more facial or body hair
- Acne or oily skin
- Thinning hair on scalp resembling male pattern baldness
- Unexplainable rapid weight gain and difficulty losing that weight
Symptoms can vary from women to women. Some experience more severe symptoms while for others, the symptoms are mild and may not be noticeable.
However, the only sure way to know that you have PCOS is to get a test done under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor may request a transvaginal scan that sends a probe inside the pelvis to enable a view of the ovaries. Other blood tests may be ordered such as thyroid, prolactin and metabolic workup.
PCOS can make it tough to get pregnant… treatment can help
It is possible for women who have PCOS to get pregnant. But with that said, most women will need the help of a fertility specialist. Because cases vary and different treatments have different outcomes, treatment for PCOS is individualized and depends on a number of factors such as weight, health of the ovaries, severity of anovulation, and more.
Something to keep in mind: Fertility tends to decline with age so if you are over 30 years of age, we would recommend you seek the assistance at Xenith Advanced Fertility Clinic, sooner rather than later.
The good news for women with PCOS is that with treatment the chances of getting pregnant are very good. Here are a few treatments options:
The first line of treatment usually involves making lifestyle changes. This can include following a healthy diet, getting adequate exercise and taking folic acid supplements. By a good diet we mean low-carb, low-sugar, adequate amount of protein, and high in fibre. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily or at least 3 times per week. About 70% of women who have PCOS may struggle with insulin resistance so it is important than you maintain a low glycemic diet leaning toward more protein than carbohydrates.1
Experts say that by losing 10% of your body weight your menstrual cycle may become more predictable. This first line of treatment alone may help your body to start ovulating, increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
Fertility medication can assist women with PCOS. Clomifene citrate or letrozole is the standard medication to start with. It stimulates the ovaries to release eggs. Gonadotropins may be used as the next step to stimulate egg production. The effect of both these medications are closely monitored by ultrasound and at times blood tests to determine hormone levels and to make sure that the ovaries are not being overstimulated. Metformin may be prescribed to control sugar levels. Medication along with lifestyle changes can increase your chances of having a baby.
Laparoscopic ovarian drilling can restore ovulation but it is important that it is done only in indicated patients. This helps to decrease the excess of testosterone being produced in the ovarian stroma helping to restore hormonal balance.
Ovarian stimulation with IUI (Intrauterine Insemination )- An intrauterine insemination is done after good ovarian stimulation or combined if an additional mild male factor is present.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) can help achieve pregnancy. This is the last option we would recommend if none of the above procedures work.In this process, after ovarian stimulation eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, fertilized with the partner’s sperm in an IVF lab, and then transferred into the uterus.
Early diagnosis of PCOS can lead to early treatment. Your chances of getting pregnant become a lot higher when it is diagnosed well in time. If you suspect you may have PCOS, visit us at Xenith Advanced Fertility Centre. Our friendly environment as well as the experience and expertise of our medical staff will put you at ease as we work with you to fulfill your dreams!