Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that causes reproductive hormonal imbalances during your prime childbearing years (ages 15-44). It’s referred to as a syndrome — not a disease — because experts still have so much to learn about it, including what causes it to develop in the first place.
PCOS can give rise to various physical symptoms, gynecological issues, and potential health complications. While an irregular period during adolescence is often the first sign of PCOS, many women don’t receive an official diagnosis until they reach adulthood, when difficulties getting pregnant prompt them to seek help from their doctor.
PCOS may be one of the most common causes of female fertility problems, but luckily, it’s also highly treatable. As infertility experts specializing in PCOS management at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, Dr. Christina Parmar and Dr. Rania Ibrahim can help you control the condition and increase your odds of getting pregnant.
PCOS occurs when complex interactions between your ovaries and certain hormones, including insulin, cause abnormal reproductive hormonal and metabolic imbalances. These fundamental imbalances can give rise to a range of physical effects, including:
Over time, PCOS can also set the stage for metabolic syndrome, a collection of co-occurring conditions — including obesity, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance — that increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Finally, PCOS-driven hormonal and metabolic imbalances can cause problems that directly affect fertility. These include:
Having irregular menstrual periods, including frequent missed periods, is a common PCOS symptom. An irregular, unpredictable menstrual cycle means irregular and unpredictable ovulation, making it difficult to know when you’re fertile.
Women with PCOS have higher levels of “male hormones,” or androgens (i.e., testosterone) than normal. Besides causing extra facial hair growth and acne, atypically high androgen levels can prevent ovulation. You can't get pregnant when your ovaries don’t release an egg.
PCOS can also cause numerous fluid-filled sacs (cysts) to develop along the edges of one or both of your ovaries. These small ovarian cyst clusters can obstruct ovulation and fertility.
Having PCOS doesn't automatically make you infertile; in fact, many women affected by the condition have no trouble conceiving on their own without the help of medical interventions or lifestyle changes.
For many other women, however, PCOS makes it significantly more challenging to get pregnant, usually because of how it can interfere with normal ovulation. Our team can develop a treatment plan to help you ovulate in such cases, which may entail:
Successful ovulation is the first step toward pregnancy. If you're overweight, losing just 5-10% of your total body weight may ease the effects of PCOS enough to restore normal ovulation. The two main strategies for sustainable weight loss — regular exercise and healthy eating — can also help ease the effects of PCOS and improve fertility.
The first step in infertility treatment for PCOS is often progestin therapy, which helps thicken the lining of the uterus. Taking progestin for a short period can help regulate your periods, which are the foundation of regular ovulation.
Following progestin therapy, our team may recommend a course of medication to help induce ovulation. Several ovulation medications work to overcome the ovulation-impairing effects of PCOS. Clomiphene and letrozole are taken orally, while gonadotropin hormones are given via injection. Sometimes, we may prescribe metformin to improve insulin resistance and foster ovulation.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) may be the next best option if ovulation medications don't work. With IVF, eggs are harvested from your ovaries, mixed with your partner's sperm (or that of a donor) in a lab, and placed in your uterus to implant and develop.
If PCOS makes it harder for you to get pregnant, we can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment today at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas.