PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a more common problem than you might think. In fact, it affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. And most women aren’t even aware they have the condition; one study found that 70% percent of women with PCOS had gone undiagnosed.
At the offices of Samuel D. Van Kirk, M.D., in Redding, California, your reproductive health is our greatest priority. So, we want to make sure that you’re fully informed when it comes to diagnosing and managing PCOS.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition that affects your ovaries and ovulation. It’s called a syndrome because it presents with a group of symptoms, specifically three main ones:
- Ovarian cysts
- High levels of male hormones
- Irregular or missing menstrual periods
The cysts associated with PCOS are essentially multiple, small fluid-filled sacs that grow on your ovaries. The sacs are, in fact, follicles that contain an egg that never matures enough to initiate ovulation.
PCOS also leads to the higher than normal production of the male hormone androgen. High levels of androgen can cause excessive body hair, serious acne, and male pattern baldness in women. Too much androgen can also cause you to skip menstrual periods and make it difficult for you to get pregnant.
The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known. However, 40%-80% of women with the condition are reported to be overweight or obese. PCOS is also shown in studies to run in families, so there’s a hereditary factor. And, when it comes to the excessive production of androgen, it’s found that insulin resistance and inflammation are often linked.
Getting pregnant with PCOS
About 70%-80% of women with PCOS have fertility problems. Not only does PCOS increase infertility rates, it also raises your risk of complications with pregnancy.
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that lasts for the duration of your pregnancy. Additionally, women with PCOS are also twice as likely to experience a premature birth.
Fertility treatments can help, so talk to us about your options if you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS.
Managing your PCOS
When it comes to treating PCOS, we introduce medications and lifestyle changes that can help you regulate your symptoms. With medication, we can use hormones to help regulate your menstrual cycles, and fertility treatments to help with conception.
Lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, can make a positive difference as well. Losing just 10-15 pounds can actually relieve your PCOS symptoms and even help regulate your menstrual cycle, boosting your chances of fertility as well.