What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

During a normal menstrual cycle, eggs develop and are released into the fallopian tubes. In women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the correct hormones are not present for ovulation, leading to cysts in the ovaries. PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. PCOS is also a common and treatable cause of infertility.

What Is PCOS & Who Gets It?

Affecting five million US women, polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS is a common health condition caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. During a women’s monthly cycle, the ovaries make the egg released into the fallopian tubes and uterus for either implantation or menses. With PCOS, the egg does not develop as it should or is not released at all. PCOS can lead to irregular or missed periods with ovarian cysts (tiny fluid-filled sacs).

Nearly 70% of women with the condition do not know they have it. Many times, women discover the issue after they struggle to conceive. PCOS affects women of all backgrounds and ethnicities and is one of the most common causes of infertility. Though PCOS can affect any woman, Hispanic women appear to be at slightly great risk, with 13-14% suffering from the condition than 5% of caucasian women. Additionally, if you have a family history of PCOS or are obese, your odds of getting PCOS increase.

Though the condition is common, the causes of it are not entirely known. Medical experts believe that high levels of androgens or insulin may play a crucial role. Women with PCOS typically have more elevated androgen hormones, making ovulation difficult, leading to extra hair growth and acne. Insulin resistance is also common in women with PCOS and appears to contribute to the syndrome’s development.

Symptom Reduction & Treatment Options

There is no cure for PCOS, but you can manage the symptoms. A few ways to mitigate the symptoms include:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes three times per week
  • Drinking enough water
  • Avoiding sugary drinks
  • Eating more whole grains, walnuts, avocados, berries, spinach, and beans
  • Taking certain medications to slow hair growth and lessen acne

Losing weight with healthy eating habits and regular physical activity seems to be the most powerful way to relieve PCOS-related symptoms because it lowers your blood glucose levels, improves the way your body uses insulin, and helps your hormones reach normal levels.

Can I Still Get Pregnant?

Yes! Having PCOS does not mean you can’t get pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common but treatable causes of infertility in women. There are a few medical options that women can try:

IUI (intrauterine insemination) can help women with PCOS become pregnant. During the IUI process, the physician will place sperm inside the uterus. The process is typically quick and painless though success rates hover around 10-20% and is only offered to those who ovulate infrequently. However, if, after three cycles of IUI, a woman cannot get pregnant, the next step would be IVF (in vitro-fertilization). When you begin IVF, your doctor prescribes a course of drugs for you to take to stimulate your ovaries into (hopefully) producing 8 to 15 mature eggs. The process can take three weeks or longer.

Lastly, PCOS can cause issues with the outer part of your ovaries, which makes ovulation even more difficult over time. If IUI or IVF weren’t successful your Doctor may recommend fertility surgery.

  • It may be time to visit your physician if you’ve missed periods and you’re not pregnant, you have unusual hair growth on your face and body, you have attempted to get pregnant for more than 12 months without success, or you have symptoms of diabetes. If you are diagnosed with PCOS, plan regular visits with your primary care doctor to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible complications.

Unfortunately, many US couples struggle to conceive, and infertility rates have increased across the board. While couples may seek medical help in the form of fertility treatments, IUI, IVF, egg and sperm donation, egg freezing, and surrogacy, these treatments are costly and come with no guarantee of a successful pregnancy. 

At The Gift of Parenthood organization, we hope to increase awareness and treatment of PCOS. We strive to help couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, available four times a year. 

Will you be our next grant recipient? Apply today.

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