Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Infertility
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. PCOS – the term used in the medical world which is deceptive by name alone– affects up to 15 percent of women of childbearing age, according to the PCOS Foundation. With proper treatment at a fertility clinic, however, women who have PCOS can become pregnant and have a successful pregnancy. Here are the basics on PCOS, courtesy of one of the leading fertility clinics in Vermont: Northeastern Reproductive Medicine in Colchester.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – It’s All About Hormones
Women normally produce both male and female sex hormones. The female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are produced in much larger amounts than testosterone, the primary male sex hormone. In addition, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and pituitary hormone luteinizing hormone (LH) are necessary to regulate the menstrual cycle and help the ovaries produce eggs. In PCOS, testosterone secretion increases significantly, upsetting the balance among the remaining hormones. It is this imbalance that can lead to disruption of normal ovulation and therefore fertility problems.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome May Cause Other Problems
Fertility is only one of the health aspects of PCOS. Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugars, is also affected by PCOS, allowing blood sugars to rise. In addition, the body cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin (the same sort of problems that occur in type 2 diabetes). High blood sugar levels damage cells throughout the body. A woman who has PCOS also has a higher risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure than a woman without PCOS. Sleep apnea is also quite common in women with PCOS – this sleep disorder increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – Symptoms
There is a wide spectrum of symptoms in PCOS, some more mild and some more severe. Being overweight or obese and having menstrual irregularities are common signs of PCOS, but it is important to note that lean patients can suffer from PCOS as well. Women with PCOS may also develop male pattern hair thinning and/or have excess hair growth, especially on the face, chest or lower abdomen. Hormonal fluctuations may result in acne. Although the symptoms alone are often enough to confirm the diagnosis, laboratory tests are also available. Women with PCOS may not ovulate even if they do have regular menstrual periods and are more likely to have ovaries that show numerous resting follicles (egg sacs). This led to the syndrome being called “poly-cystic” even though they are not necessarily cysts. The menstrual irregularities and problems with ovulation result in fertility problems.
Diagnosis and Treatment
PCOS can be managed with weight loss, medications, hormone therapy and other strategies. The infertility aspects can often be helped with both ovulation-induction medications and also in-vitro fertilization (IVF). At Northeastern Reproductive Medicine, we prefer to use the simplest or most natural methods whenever possible, including optimizing your natural fertility.
Having PCOS and irregular cycles doesn’t have to mean you wait months or years to conceive. Let us help you. The right treatment at our Vermont fertility clinic can make a difference. If you’re struggling with PCOS, please contact us today for an appointment.