Causes & Treatment

PCOS Management and Fertility Treatment

Eloise Edington  |   22 Sep 2021

In honour of PCOS awareness month this September, Fertility Help Hub have asked Laurel Fertility Care to take a deeper look at the diagnosis that affects so many. PCOS affects 1 in 10 of women of child-bearing age and yet it is still hard to diagnose. Perhaps LFC’s educational article on PCOS below will help more women to be diagnosed, as well as enlightening us about the treatment options that are available for those looking to alleviate their symptoms and improve their fertility.

Words by Laurel Fertility Care

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance; women with PCOS have ovaries that produce more androgens (male hormones) than normal, which is due to high insulin levels leading to the increase in production of androgen in the ovary. 

PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age and, while there is no cure, it can be effectively managed to help you conceive.

Related Article – Why Are People Painting Their Nails Purple For PCOS?

Diagnosis of PCOS and Symptom Checklist 

Symptoms of PCOS often first occur at the onset of puberty, but may also develop later in life, and are often associated with weight gain. Here is a checklist of some of the symptoms of PCOS:

  • Menstrual cycle irregularities, including heavy or prolonged bleeding, infrequent periods, or no periods at all
  • Increase in weight
  • Insulin resistance
  • Skin irregularities including severe acne
  • Multiple follicles in ovaries
  • Hirsutism – excessive growth of body hair, including on the face
  • Hair loss

To be diagnosed with PCOS, two of the three following symptoms on this checklist must be present:

  • Little to no ovulation with possible irregular menstrual cycles
  • Clinical signs of high androgen levels (unwanted hair growth, acne) or tests that show high androgen levels in the blood
  • Ultrasound of the ovaries indicating more than twelve follicles

Polycystic Ovaries 

The term “polycystic” ovaries can be misleading and sound worrisome to patients or health care providers who are not familiar with the ovaries. The “cysts” in this case are small ovarian antral follicles that contain eggs and should not be confused with larger cysts that can be of medical concern.

Most women are born with these antral follicles and select one dominant follicle each month, which is then ovulated or an egg released in anticipation of pregnancy. In women with PCOS, there is an excess amount of these small follicles, and the selection of one dominant follicle does not happen every month or sometimes does not happen at all. This is referred to as oligo-ovulation or an-ovulation and leads to infrequent menstrual periods.

The variety of ways that the symptoms of PCOS can present makes it notoriously difficult to diagnose, but if you’re struggling to get pregnant understanding what is going on with your body is incredibly important.

Related Article – How To Help Improve PCOS Symptoms and Fertility

How PCOS May Cause Fertility Challenges

When menstruation doesn’t occur regularly or normally it can become difficult to get pregnant without intervention. Another challenge to fertility is being overweight or underweight. There is also a higher risk of miscarriage and gestational diabetes associated with PCOS. For all these reasons it is good to identify the risk of PCOS and begin treatments before trying to conceive.

The main source of infertility in women with PCOS is the infrequent ovulation described above. For women who do not ovulate regularly, ovulation can be induced with oral medications such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole and should ideally be done under the supervision of a gynaecologist or reproductive endocrinology and fertility specialist.

Treatment & Success

Since PCOS is most likely caused by hormonal imbalances, many of the most effective treatments involve hormone therapy. This often takes the form of different varieties of hormonal birth control including:

  • Birth control pills
  • Progestin therapy
  • Hormonal IUDs
  • Vaginal rings

These therapies aren’t always appropriate, especially if you are trying to conceive. There are other types of medication that can be prescribed to help increase ovulation if you’re trying to conceive. If these treatments of PCOS aren’t successful, you may need to consider a more aggressive intervention for fertility, most likely in vitro fertilization.

Lifestyle changes with diet and exercise are also successful ways to manage PCOS. Limiting processed foods, adding healthy fats, and lean meats to your diet will help lower glucose levels and improve the body’s use of insulin.

Whatever your needs, our fertility specialists can advise you along the way. Navigating PCOS and fertility treatments can feel complicated, and our providers are here to help you navigate through your fertility journey.

PCOS & Pregnancy

After conceiving, women with PCOS are at risk of developing certain complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-term delivery, and pre-eclampsia, and this can be exacerbated by obesity. The Endocrine Society recommends assessment of BMI, blood pressure and oral glucose tolerance prior to attempts at conceiving.

While PCOS is normally associated with infertility, not all women who have PCOS are infertile. Most women suffering from PCOS can achieve successful pregnancies and deliveries.

At Laurel Fertility Care, skilled reproductive endocrinologists are available to help patients with PCOS who are having difficulty conceiving. The decision to start a family is life-changing, full of anticipation and dreams. As the premier boutique fertility clinic in the Bay Area, we are dedicated to helping your family grow, offering a personalized care approach full of hope!

Related Article – Inositol and PCOS / Fertility – The Benefits

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into the symptoms of PCOS and how to go about getting a diagnosis, as well as types of treatment for symptoms while being mindful of your fertility, if that is your intention. Visit the Laurel Fertility Care website for more information on treatment options from fertility specialists.

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