PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women between their twenties and their forties and if you have been trying to get pregnant and have had no luck yet, you should speak to your doctor about the possibility that you have PCOS.
It does not, however, mean that you will never be able to get pregnant. It is certainly very possible, and if you consult your doctor you have a strong chance of having a baby.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome, is a disorder where women have fluid filled sacs, or cysts, on their ovaries that prevent the ovaries from functioning properly. The ovaries in women suffering from PCOS are usually up to three times larger than they should be.
The syndrome affects reproduction as well as the menstrual cycle. PCOS affects up to ten percent of women between 20 and 40 although the figure may be much higher. It is the most common reproductive disorder in women.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS are very extensive. Some women may present with most of the symptoms buy may not be diagnosed with PCOS while other women may lack the most important symptom (cysts on the ovaries) and may still be diagnosed with the syndrome. The symptoms of PCOS include the following:
- Cysts, or fluid filled sacs, on the ovaries
- Irregular periods or periods that stop for no reason
- Irregular bleeding when not on your period
- A lack of ovulation or infrequent ovulation
- The inability to fall pregnant
- An increased production of testosterone and other male hormones
- Pelvic pain that lasts more than half a year
- Diabetes and the body not being able to properly manage insulin
- Either high or low cholesterol or high triglycerides
- Facial and body hair that grows excessively
- High blood pressure
- Hair loss and balding
- Oily skin or acne
- Dark coloured areas of thick skin in patches around the body
If you have several of the above symptoms you should definitely visit your gynaecologist for a proper check-up and advice.
Often, PCOS is misdiagnosed because doctors will treat one or two symptoms separately instead of looking at the bigger picture. It is therefore always a good idea to mention PCOS if you are worried about it.
The condition PCOS and pregnancy
Even if you do have PCOS, it is still possible to become pregnant. However, there is a very high risk factor in terms of miscarriages. Many women with PCOS find that they cannot carry a baby to term.
Experts are not sure what exactly causes the miscarriages or infertility but most doctors have guessed that it has something to do with the high hormone levels, high insulin or glucose levels. These high levels could interfere with implantation of the egg as well as the development of the embryo once it is formed. Another effect of high insulin levels is a very poor egg quality making the whole process very difficult.
What can be done?
If you have PCOS and you would really like to fall pregnant, there are several measures that can be taken. Firstly, doctors will generally try to stabilise your hormone levels which will increase ovulation and therefore increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
You may also be prescribed ovulation medication to further increase your chances. The one thing to keep in mind, however, is that some of the medication used to treat PCOS can actually further decrease your chances of falling pregnant. Speak to your doctor if conceiving is your main concern.
Another way to increase your chances of becoming pregnant and regulate the effects of PCOS is to eat a healthy and balances diet and to exercise regularly. Many women have found that after a lot of difficulty becoming pregnant the first time around, they fall pregnant the second time very easily.
Also, after a pregnancy, many women have found that their hormones have become regulated and their PCOS symptoms have decreased.