Did you know that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS affects 5-10% of women? Furthermore, the majority of women with PCOS are misdiagnosed or even worse undiagnosed. The cluster of issues that accompany PCOS makes it difficult to accurately diagnose. This combined with a lack of awareness and failure to recognize symptoms contributes to women not getting treatment. Misdiagnosis and not properly managing PCOS can cause you to struggle with infertility. And for many women, PCOS is only diagnosed after struggling with fertility issues.
What is PCOS & What Causes It?
PCOS is a combination of symptoms that become present due to a hormonal reproductive disorder. In some cases of PCOS, it is common for women to develop tiny, fluid-filled cysts on the surface of the ovary. These little cysts contain immature, underdeveloped eggs. Which is due to insufficient estrogen production the eggs are not able to mature and be released. The excessive production of androgens (male sex hormones) contributes to the suppression of female hormones and hormonal imbalance issues. These hormonal imbalances contribute to reproductive dysfunction such as ovulation dysfunction, irregular periods and metabolic disorders.
There isn’t a clear cut answer as to what causes PCOS for many women. Common risk factors that can increase your risk of PCOS include genetics and excess insulin production.
Depending on your family history and hereditary production of specific genes. You may have an increased risk of developing PCOS.
Overproduction of Insulin
The insulin hormone has an important role in your body. It is secreted from the pancreas and enables the cells in your body to properly utilize sugar. If your cells become insulin resistant then blood sugar levels increase. This causes your body to produce more insulin to try and compensate. An overproduction of insulin develops which increases androgen production. An excessive amount of androgens is a contributing factor to PCOS.
Symptoms Associated with PCOS
Common symptoms that may be a sign that you have PCOS are
- Experiencing abnormal hair growth
- Darkening of the skin
- Weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Ovarian cysts
As with all diseases and conditions, symptoms vary from person to person. It is possible to have PCOS and display all of the above symptoms or to only experience a few of these symptoms. This is why awareness regarding PCOS is important. Knowing the signs and symptoms associated with PCOS can lead to early detection. Early detection is key to properly managing and treating PCOS. So, if you suspect that you may have PCOS schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive a proper evaluation.
How Does PCOS Cause Infertility?
While having PCOS doesn’t necessarily mean you are infertile or that you will have fertility complications. It does increase your risk of infertility due to issues with ovulation dysfunction and hormonal imbalance.
This issue can present itself in a variety of ways. Irregular periods or menstrual cycles that last longer than 35 days are key indicators that you have ovulation dysfunction. Essentially your ovaries are not releasing an egg each cycle the way that it should. Failure to ovulate monthly or ovulating irregularly is going to decrease your fertility odds. Which makes conception harder for you to accomplish. Ovulation dysfunction is linked to a decrease of female sex hormones and increase of male sex hormones.
The overproduction of androgens is responsible for contributing to many of the complications associated with PCOS. High androgen levels cause irregular periods and ovulation dysfunction. Another factor that contributes to hormonal imbalance is an overproduction of insulin. Producing excessive amounts of insulin has been linked to increased androgen production. Another hormonal imbalance issue is the decreased production of the female sex hormones which also contributes to ovulation dysfunction. Declining levels of estrogen can interfere with the maturation and development of healthy eggs and prevent their release each month. This disruption with ovulation and menstruation decreases fertility.
What To Do if You Suspect PCOS?
You should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist if:
- You’ve been dealing with any of the above symptoms.
- You’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for 12 months or longer.
- You’re 35 and over and have been trying to conceive for 6 months or longer.
The sooner you schedule an appointment with your doctor the faster you can get to the root cause of the issue and determine what next steps need to be taken. You may also find that it is beneficial to work with a fertility specialist that has expertise with reproductive health and infertility.
There will be tests that you and your partner will have to go through in order to determine the underlying issue. Your doctor may administer a
- Physical exam/pelvic exam
- Blood test for hormone levels
- Blood test for glucose
- Full fertility workup
This will help them get a full picture of what is going on with you and determine if PCOS is the issue or if there is another issue that is at play.
How You Should Prepare
When you visit with your doctor it’s important to come fully prepared. You will want to provide as much background information as possible and discuss at length what you’ve been experiencing. Research and create a journal that outlines your full medical history. If possible speak with your mother and gain a better understanding of her health history. Do the same if you have female siblings as well. Track and log your menstrual cycles and make sure to include pertinent information.
Key information to make note of would be
- Menstrual flow
- Cervical Mucus
- Basal body temperature
- Length of cycles
If you notice or have been experiencing any of the above symptoms track and log them as well. Describe when you first noticed these symptoms, how long they last and any information that you believe is relevant. The more transparent and informative you are the better. Also, make sure you ask open-ended questions and inform yourself as much as possible in regards to your fertility. If you’re seeking to start your family right away knowing what your options are and what all is required of you may prove to be very helpful and informative.
About the Author.
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I am an Esthetician, Lifestyle Wellness Coach, Content Creator, and Writer. My intention is to provide you with education and awareness about women’s health, nutrition, fitness, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. I primarily help women that are seeking holistic and natural solutions to managing their chronic condition, improving their lifestyle and combating anti-aging concerns. I offer coaching programs and courses that are designed to help you redefine your health and defy aging. You can find my content on a variety of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!