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GR8NESS expert Expert Reviewed
Woman holding a small index card with the letters "PCOS" to promote awareness for polycystic ovarian syndrome
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What You Wish You Knew About PCOS

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You’d think it would be plastered across a billboard for all to see that the leading cause for infertility is PCOS, a treatable condition. PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is defined as a common health problem caused by the imbalance of reproductive hormones.

This condition interferes with ovulation and can prevent eggs in the ovaries from developing or being appropriately released, which significantly impacts women and their ability to conceive.

How it Happens

The initial thing to know is that up to 75% of women with PCOS go undiagnosed. Approximately 5 million women of childbearing age in the US have it.

It’s not that there aren’t signs that may indicate this issue before a woman tries to get pregnant. It’s that they are often dismissed as unrelated. This happens somewhere in between women missing appointments, and adapting to their symptoms.

At the same time, doctors only know what they see and what they are told. It’s possible that dismissing your symptoms as usual hormonal side effects may prevent your doctor from knowing key information that could help them to diagnose the underlying disease.

Causes

The causes for PCOS are not extremely clear, though some adequate inferences may be able to help determine the probability of developing PCOS.

Genetics

While medical professionals have not been able to narrow down the exact cause of PCOS, a study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham concluded that 24% of women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome had a mother with PCOS, and 32% had a sister with the condition. While there isn’t technically a polycystic ovarian syndrome gene, family members of those with the disease do appear to be at higher risk.

Insulin Resistance

Resistance to insulin is often an indicator of a possible risk of developing PCOS in women. The sensitivity to the insulin provokes higher testosterone production, which in turn interferes with regular ovulation.

Hormone Imbalance

Irregular menstrual cycles and other hormone imbalances that affect tissue throughout the body increases the chance of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

PCOS Symptoms

Unfortunately, symptoms of a polycystic ovarian syndrome are quite similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This makes it more challenging to diagnose since most women will dismiss the symptoms, associating them with their menstrual periods.

Symptoms include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Excess hair growth,  otherwise known as hirsutism.
  • Acne.
  • Mood changes.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Headaches.
  • Sleep problems.

Risk Factors

As mentioned, PCOS is the leading cause of infertility, but this is sadly not the only side effect to be wary of. Having polycystic ovarian syndrome can increase your chances of having type 2 diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and sleep apnea.

It can also increase your risk of endometrial cancer, as well as other cancers of the general area. Ovarian cysts and pelvic pain are common side effects. Cysts may develop in high volume, at times as high as 25 or more on one ovary.

Detection & Diagnosis

Be clear on your status. Make sure you are not going undiagnosed by taking proactive measures to be thorough with your examinations. Ensure you have as much information as possible by:

  • Scheduling a standard pelvic exam/pap smear.
  • Getting blood work done that test explicitly for menstrual abnormalities or androgen excess.
  • Having your doctor order a pelvic/vaginal ultrasound.

Treatment

There is still no cure to date for PCOS. However, it is treatable. The next step is to find a doctor you feel comfortable with.

They will likely recommend basic methods of reducing symptoms that include:

  • Hormonal Birth Control.
  • Anti-androgen medication.
  • Anti-diabetic medication.

Can I Still Get Pregnant If I Have PCOS?

The silver lining to having PCOS? Yes, you can still get pregnant. Though it is the leading cause of infertility, there are options and fertility treatments for those who want to conceive.

For those with PCOS who are wanting to conceive, some methods of addressing it include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • Surgery.
  • Anti-diabetic medication.
  • Estrogen treatment.
  • Gonadotropins injections.

At Home, Practices to Help with PCOS Symptoms

  • Monitor your caloric intake and how it coincides with your insulin and glucose levels as they can impact the production of hormones that can be enabled symptoms.
  • Increase your vitamin D and calcium intake.
  • Ingest magnesium, chromium, and fish oil.

Myths & Facts about PCOS

Fact: There are women with PCOS who don’t have cysts on their ovaries, and having cysts doesn’t mean you have it either.

Myth: Every woman will experience irregular hair growth. Ethnicity tends to play a role in whether or not excess hair growth will occur.

Fact: Having an irregular period does not mean that you have PCOS.

Myth: You need an ultrasound to be diagnosed with PCOS. Not in all cases. Symptoms, blood tests, and physical exams can also determine if you have it.

Fact: PCOS does not go away after menopause.

Tell Everyone!

You must tell everyone. PCOS is by no means a single, women’s issue. It is very much something for all sons, fathers, and those who want to become fathers, to concern themselves with.

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Amanda
GR8NESS Writer
Amanda is a GR8NESS contributing writer who lives in celebration of self care, and endeavors to approach all things with a student mentality. Her love for the study of self-development is rooted in fitness, holistic wellness, and skin care. She is an advocate for mental health; and hopes to connect others to their own way of daring to care.
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