September is PCOS Awareness month in the United States. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects almost 7 million women in this country. Less than half of them know that they have it. With almost 10% of women having PCOS, the chances are that you do know someone that is affected by this medical condition.
PCOS is an endocrine disorder that can often to lead to infertility in women. The good news is that with the proper treatment many women with PCOS do get to have children. The bad news is that the longer it goes untreated the more difficult it is to correct. Just like everything else, early diagnosis is key.
Women with PCOS typically have very small, benign cysts on their ovaries. These can be found in an ultrasound. However, not all polycystic ovaries lead to PCOS. A woman also needs to be tested for the amount of androgen hormones that they have. Androgen hormones are primarily male hormones and having higher levels of them in women can lead to other symptoms.
Here are some of the more common symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular or absent ovulation
- Irregular or absent periods
- Abnormal hair growth (upper lip, chin, nipples)
- Really oily skin and/or hair
- Insulin resistance
- Hyperandrogenism (high levels of androgens
- Elevated levels of LH hormone
PCOS can be treated. A common form of treatment is with birth control pills. Anyone that wants to get pregnant might not appreciate this option, but it is a good way to get a woman's cycle regulated.
They also help to reduce the amount of acne and unwanted hair growth.
For women trying to get pregnant that aren't ovulating the first medication tried is usually Clomid. This drug helps to stimulate ovulation. Many doctors will also prescribe Metformin (Glucophage) to their patients. This is typically used to treat insulin resistance, but may be given to women that don't have this condition. Studies have also shown that for some women simply losing 10% of their current weight, eating a healthier diet and adding some regular exercise can fix their ovulation problems naturally.
If these treatments don't work for women trying to get pregnant then it's time to begin exploring other options in their personal fertility journey. This could include further treatments such as IUI's or IVF, or maybe adoption.
Check out this little quiz to see if you're one of the 10% of women that have PCOS.
Check out these resources to learn more about PCOS.