Understanding PCOS and Infertility in Women

Ages 15 to 44 are usually considered to be normal child bearing years, and PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition which affects approximately 1 in 10 of this age group, making PCOS infertility the most common cause of female infertility.

But what exactly is PCOS, and how are PCOS and infertility connected? PCOS is a condition which affects a woman’s menstrual cycle and consequently her ability to have children. In a normal menstrual cycle, follicles develop in the ovaries, and these follicles each contain an egg. Eventually only one follicle remains and it is this which produces the egg released in ovulation. With PCOS however, insufficient female hormones are produced for ovulation. The result of this is that the follicles may grow and develop into cysts, which can show up on ultrasound as the characteristic ‘string of pearls’.

The cause of PCOS is unknown and several theories exist. Women with PCOS and infertility frequently have a mother or sister with the condition, so there may be a hereditary connection, although this has not been proven. Others consider a genetic predisposition is the cause. Increasingly scientists think there may be a connection with insulin PCOS infertility. Women with PCOS have difficulty processing insulin so that too much remains in the body. This excess of insulin appears to increase production of male hormones (androgens) which leads to problems with ovulation.

A wide range of symptoms may be experienced with PCOS, although these will vary greatly with the individual concerned. The symptoms include:

o Irregular period, infrequent period

o Increased hair growth on the face, chest and back

o Hair loss (characterized by thinning on top of head)

o Acne or oily skin

o Weight gain or obesity

o Insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes

o High blood pressure

o Skin tags

Treatment of PCOS and infertility is one of symptom management, and will depend on the symptoms experienced and what your fertility goals are. Treatments may include diabetes medications to treat diabetes where present, fertility medications to stimulate ovulation, and anti androgens to help with hair growth and reduce acne. Hormone levels can also be helped by weight loss.

Different women will experience PCOS in different ways. For some the symptoms may be quite mild and barely noticeable, but others may experience a wide range of symptoms. Many women become embarrassed over their appearance, others may worry about failing to conceive, and some will get depressed. In addition to the medical treatments available, various support groups exist and these can help deal with the emotional aspects of the condition.

Source by Laura O’Rorke

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