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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Kathleen Roberts |13, October 2009


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that occurs in approximately one in every ten women who are of child-bearing age. This disease results in rare or non-existent ovulation and is the most common cause of infertility in women. With PCOS, non-functioning follicles turn into cysts in the ovaries. As these cysts accumulate, the ovaries become enlarged. There are other symptoms as well. Fortunately, treatment options are available in most cases.

Symptoms of PCOS

While to actual cause of PCOS is not known, some doctors feel it could be hereditary. Problems regulating insulin may also play a role in the development of PCOS. Doctors can diagnose this disease through various symptoms. Women with PCOS may have a menstrual period rarely if at all. In fact, it is common for women suffering with this disorder to have less than eight menstrual periods each year. This is because the ovaries are not ovulating each month. For some women, ovulation only occurs occasionally with no predictability; in other women ovulation just doesn't occur at all. In either case, it is extremely difficult to impossible for a woman to conceive.

Other symptoms that are presented by POCD include excess facial hair or chest hair. This is typically caused by an excess of androgens, or "male hormones," testosterone and androstenedione. Women may also notice acne and weight problems. These are caused by hormonal imbalances as well as difficulty regulating insulin levels. Female hormones will also be out of sync with progesterone levels being too low and estrogen levels being too high.

A woman with POCD has an increased risk of miscarriage if she does conceive. She is also at a higher risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, uterine cancer (from build up of uterine lining which cannot be removed without menstruation) and even problems with high cholesterol.

PCOS Treatment

In most cases, PCOS can be treated with the goal of increased fertility. However, before a diagnosis is made, most doctors will want to eliminate other possible health issues. Similar symptoms may be caused by thyroid problems and adrenal issues. If these have been ruled out, treatment for POCD can begin.

The first consideration should always be lifestyle changes. Following a healthy diet will aid in moderate weight loss while also helping the body to maintain proper insulin levels. reasonable exercise should also be considered to keep the body's systems functioning properly. These factors will also help medical treatments to work more effectively.

Surprisingly, oral contraceptives are often prescribed to help control POCD symptoms. This isn't a good option if you are hoping to have a baby, but the pill will help control your symptoms and regulate your cycles. The correct birth control pills will encourage your uterus to shed its lining at least once every three months. This will protect against uterine cancer and promote regular menstrual function. Oral contraceptives will also reduce the amount of male hormones in the blood which may combat unwanted hair and other undesirable male characteristics.

Commonly, Clomid is prescribed for POCD to increase fertility. Metformin may also be prescribed along with Clomid to control the metabolic issues related to POCD. With these medications, insulin levels are moderated and ovulation becomes more predictable. This, of course, increases a woman's chance of becoming pregnant.

If these methods do not help, some doctors may opt for Gonadotropin therapy. This involves hormone injections that may improve the chances of conception but may also carry the risk of complications including the conception of multiples. It is also costly and therefore used only if other medications do not help. Sometimes surgery is recommended to thin the ovary walls. The goal is to make it easier for an egg to be released. Surgery carries risks as well, such as scaring, and will do little to control hormonal or metabolic issues. It also isn't permanent.

The key is to trust your doctor. The sooner you get your symptoms under control, the better it will be for your future health. Most women are helped immensely by the treatments offered. In addition, do your best to control the stress in your life. Stress can also make it difficult to conceive. Relax, take care of yourself, follow a healthy diet and exercise plan and listen to your doctor. Together, these things will help get your POCD symptoms under control as well as increase your chance of having a baby if that is your desire.

Kathleen Roberts is a health and parenting writer who lives in Colorado with her five children. She employs natural methods for staying healthy whenever possible but always recommends consulting a medical professional for serious illness.

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Showing 1 - 8 out of 8 Comments
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NMQ Feb 26, 2017 08:15:19 AM ET

Hi, I'm 22, and a USG performed a few days back revealed a simple cyst in the ovary now had become PCOD, I'm really stressed and haven't had my regular cycles since past two months, I feel I'm developing this excess eating habit as well owing to this bad news effect. My doctor suggests this is just what medicines gotta do to regulate my cycles. I'm not very convinced by the idea, what should I do?

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gracy Mar 6, 2015 02:29:49 PM ET

I'm not married. I am 25 yrs old. I recently have been diagnosed with pcos. I'm really depressed. I have read the information provided, feeling better and working towards fixing it before getting married. Thank you.

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Jessi Nov 18, 2011 04:53:45 AM ET

I was told when I was 19 that I have PCOS. The information and testimonials were helpful. Thank you. I am hoping that my husband and I will get pregnant very soon :)

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Gena Hinton Sep 18, 2010 01:02:10 PM ET

Interesting, thank you.

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jess cresswell Jul 25, 2010 06:09:51 AM ET

I fell preg straight after being on the pill with my son. Now I've been of the pill for 6 months and I can't seem to fall preg , I also only get a period every 10 weeks about. What can I do to regulate my cycle and to fall preg! I'm feeling so frustrated at my body!

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Christina Jul 13, 2010 06:34:08 AM ET

I was told at 15 that I had PCOS and that I would never get pregnant. However, a doctir put me on metformin to bring down my insulin levels and now I have a daughter who is about to turn 5. So don't lose hope, where there is a will theee is a way!

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Leslie Apr 1, 2010 12:32:50 AM ET

When a woman is on birth control and has PCOS, will they be more or less likely to conceive a child? Also, does having PCOS (while taking birth control) cause you to start your period a few days early?

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meggan peterson Feb 2, 2010 07:34:18 AM ET

This article was very helpful. i resently found out i have pcos and this helped me understand it better and look forward to my furture

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