In 2017, a resolution was introduced to the United States to make the month of September, “PCOS Awareness Month”. The initiative aimed to make the month dedicated to raise awareness among the public as well as healthcare professionals to improve the diagnosis and treatment options around this condition and hopefully, encourage more research into Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. In February 2019, it became a federally recognized event into the United States Congress. We applaud drawing attention to this condition as it impacts somewhere between 5 – 10% of women aged between 20 and 40. This makes it the most widespread reproductive syndrome for this age group of women.
The Definition of PCOS
PCOS is typically caused by an imbalance of hormones. The hormonal imbalance creates problems in your ovaries. Girls and women who have PCOS tend to have an elevated level of male hormones, which creates a chain effect involving your entire menstrual cycle. Having a hormonal imbalance means your ovaries are not able to make the hormones needed for an egg to fully mature. That can prevent you from ovulating. If you’re not ovulating, you aren’t producing the amount of progesterone you need. Without progesterone, your menstrual cycle can become irregular or stop completely. If you’re trying to conceive with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, this “PCOS Chain Reaction” can make your efforts rather difficult!
The Symptoms of PCOS and Impact
PCOS affects 1 in 10 women so familiarizing yourself with this condition to see if any resonate with you can be time well spent. On the surface, most expect that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can affect your fertility. It actually accounts for 25 percent of infertility cases but not as obvious is if left untreated, it can impact your overall health. PCOS has been known to cause such issues as diabetes, heart disease and cancer such as endometrial cancer.
Dr. Juliet Skinner, our Medical Director, treats many women who suffer with PCOS. According to Dr. Skinner, “PCOS is a very common condition and even if a patient only experiences mild symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Many factors affect a woman’s ability to conceive, and PCOS can be a major contributor to infertility. The sooner the condition is diagnosed the sooner women can be advised on their options for medication and in extreme cases, assisted reproduction. Maternal age plays a big part in successful treatment and therefore I urge women who may be suffering to seek help sooner rather than later.”
The signs of PCOS can vary and some girls and women may not show any clear The most common symptoms whatsoever. Overall, the most commonly reported symptoms are the following:
- – Polycystic ovaries or an increased follicle number (which can be confirmed through an ultrasound)
- – Irregular, infrequent or missed periods with prolonged periods between cycles
- – Acne, oily skin and dandruff
- – Weight gain or obesity or difficulty losing weight
- – Pelvic pain
- – Anxiety or depression
- – Abnormal hair growth on your face, chest, etc.
- – Insulin resistance/diabetic like symptoms
- – Male pattern baldness or thinning hair
- – Sleep apnea
- – Infertility
PCOS and Stress
Some research has shown that stress plays a role in how PCOS develops. Other possible causes include excessive prenatal exposure to male hormones (androgen or testosterone) and excessive insulin production. Not helping matters, around 34% of women diagnosed with PCOS suffer from depression and around 45% have anxiety. While you work towards addressing your physical symptoms, it’s important to consider ways to address your psychological feelings as well.
PCOS and Actionable Steps
In the spirit of raising awareness, we encourage you to educate and advocate for yourself if you have any suspicion that you have PCOS. Especially if you’re interested in having a family either now or sometime in the future. There are dietary changes you can make as a “first line of defense” that can aid in controlling your weight and insulin levels, plus, if you incorporate some exercise, it will be incredibly helpful both in controlling your PCOS and in getting your body “pregnant ready”.
There are also medications that can be prescribed to address some of the symptoms you may be experiencing. In some cases, birth control pills may be recommended to manage your hormone levels and regulate your menstrual cycles or there is a medication called Metformin that might be given to address your particular issues. Since every person’s symptoms can be different, it’s vital to seek the advice of a doctor, get a fertility assessment so your care can be individualized to your needs.
In terms of family building, you also have various options. Once your PCOS is controlled, you may not need any assisted reproductive technology help. There are, as Dr. Skinner mentioned in our above quote however, other factors like age as well. This is why depending on how severe your symptoms are, your age and even taking into account your partner’s fertility history and age, your doctor may suggest Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
Barbados Fertility Centre and PCOS
Our philosophy at Barbados Fertility Center is all about personalized care. We are committed to providing high-quality medical care with an established, success-proven, internationally trained medical team. We also feel strongly about creating a stress-free environment. If you’ve been dealing with PCOS and not making the progress you’ve been hoping for, please consider scheduling a no-obligation phone call to see if perhaps we can help.
Ultimately, you are your own best patient advocate and you should feel comfortable learning more about PCOS, seeking out second opinions if need be and making sure you’re getting the care you deserve around this condition.