When it comes to polycystic ovarian syndrome, many people don’t know the full story about this very common condition and the havoc it can cause in a woman’s life.
There’s so much more going on inside for the 10% of women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. That’s why every September, PCOS Awareness Month strives to increase awareness and help improve the lives of women living with the serious disorder.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of PCOS, and how you can support a partner and friend with the disorder.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a genetic hormonal disorder that affects 10 million women of reproductive age. In fact, PCOS infertility is the most common type of female infertility.
A woman with PCOS has high levels of androgens, which are male hormones, and low levels of the female hormone estrogen. This imbalance causes her ovaries to develop many small follicles whose eggs don’t mature or release. Instead, a woman with PCOS often misses a period and develops cysts.
Why Hormones Matter
Women with PCOS can blame excess androgens for many of their PCOS symptoms. And because the body is less responsive to insulin, they may have elevated blood glucose levels. This means foods don’t always process normally, so they can feel sick after eating and experience weight gain. Add irregular periods to the mix, from a lack of progesterone, and we can begin to imagine how unpredictable and isolating living with PCOS can be.
Who Has PCOS?
According to the Office on Women’s Health, as many as 1 out of 10 women suffer from PCOS — with girls as young as 11 being diagnosed.
Women with PCOS most often experience missed or irregular periods, along with acne and excess body hair. Because they aren’t often ovulating, they have a harder time getting pregnant with PCOS, too.
And because hormonal imbalances like this don’t go away, women can continue to have PCOS symptoms even after menopause — along with an increased risk of serious conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
Risk Factors for Developing PCOS
- Insulin imbalance
- Low-grade inflammation
- Excess androgen hormone
Do I have PCOS?
If you’re asking yourself this question, you’re not the only one. PCOS affects up to 10% of women in their child-bearing years, from 15 to 44, of all races and ethnicities. Women are usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, when they have issues getting pregnant and go see a doctor.
- Missed/irregular periods or periods every 21 days or more
- Pelvic pain
- Excess facial hair
- Thinning hair on the scalp
- Weight gain
- Skin tags
- Darkening of the skin along the neck creases, groin and beneath breasts
If you have PCOS, you know it comes with life-changing symptoms. But it can also cause pregnancy and other complications for years to come — including infertility, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, abnormal bleeding from the uterus, depression and endometrial cancer.
Obesity, which is associated with PCOS, can worsen the disorder. And PCOS has been linked with sleep apnea, depression/anxiety, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol.
Bottom line? See your doctor when you start experiencing symptoms, so you can be diagnosed and get a treatment plan.
With PCOS, Mother Nature messes with a woman’s ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant. But while PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility, it is treatable.
Getting Pregnant With PCOS
Getting pregnant with PCOS in the traditional way can be difficult. But early diagnosis and treatment of PCOS infertility, along with weight loss, can help women go on to have healthy pregnancies.
PCOS Infertility Treatment
If getting pregnant with PCOS is proving difficult for you, know you are not alone. PCOS infertility treatment is available, and your doctor may prescribe ovulation medications like Clomiphene® to help achieve pregnancy.
Outside of trying to conceive, your doctor may prescribe birth control to help regulate your periods.
Healthy eating can also relieve PCOS-related symptoms. For those who are overweight, a 10% decrease in body weight can help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve chances of getting pregnant.
Supporting a Loved One with PCOS
Whether she’s your spouse, daughter or best friend, your support and understanding can make all the difference. Here are some simple ways you can help:
- Tackle lifestyle changes together—from healthy eating to getting active.
- Be patient. Living with a chronic condition is tough. Try to see her behavior as separate from her as a person.
- Don’t take it personally. Women with PCOS can feel self-conscious. If she’s lacking interest in socializing or sex, it’s more likely due to PCOS-induced acne than anything you’ve done.
- Read or attend events with her to learn more about what she’s going through, and how you can help her cope.
Help Is Here
See how the Kaldas Center can help you manage symptoms and PCOS infertility, by calling 920-886-2299 or 855-886-2299.