PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a hormonal imbalance, is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. September is National PCOS Awareness Month and the perfect time to delve into the details of how PCOS affects your fertility. Drew Tortoriello, MD of Sher Fertility Institute New York in Manhattan, New York explains what PCOS is, how it affects your fertility, and the treatment options that may help you manage PCOS and grow your family.
What is PCOS and what are its symptoms? Its cause is unknown, but it is the single most common hormonal problem facing young women. Everyone, women and men, produce androgen hormones. They’re often thought of as male hormones since men produce significantly higher levels than women and they play a key role in developing male sex organs and male traits. Typically, in women, androgens convert into estrogen. However, women with PCOS tend to over-produce these androgens and these elevated levels cause ovulation issues. In fact, a hallmark feature of PCOS is the presence of irregular menstrual cycles due to disordered ovulation. Sometimes the androgen increase is due to a condition more common in PCOS patients called insulin resistance, a type of pre-diabetes.
Other symptoms of PCOS include:
- Anxiety & depression
- Weight gain
- High insulin levels
- Excess body & facial hair
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic pain
- Thinning hair on the head
- Poor sleep
Just as there is no known cause of PCOS, there’s no one test that can diagnose the condition. A full medical history, series of lab tests, and a sonogram, potentially, will be done to rule out other causes of your symptoms and help make a PCOS diagnosis. If you’re experiencing any combination of the symptoms described above and have had difficulty getting pregnant, Sher Fertility Institute New York may be able to help. Call us at (646) 792-7476 to see if PCOS could be affecting your fertility.
PCOS & Pregnancy
Women with PCOS can and do become pregnant. Your doctor will discuss which options may be best for you. Common fertility drug treatments include:
- Metformin: Metformin may help regulate your cycle by lowering high insulin and blood glucose levels and normalizing your androgen hormone levels.
- Clomiphene citrate: Combining this ovulation-inducing medication with metformin can be beneficial in helping women with PCOS get pregnant faster than those who take metformin alone.
- Gonadotropins: Often recommended for women who don’t ovulate normally, these naturally occurring hormones stimulate your ovaries to produce one or more eggs. Doctors frequently turn to gonadotropins for patients who don’t respond well to treatment with clomiphene citrate.
Weight is often looked at when it comes to PCOS and infertility. Excess pounds affect your hormone levels, so losing weight could be the first step to getting your hormones back to normal levels. Overweight women who lose as little as 5-10% of their body weight may see an improvement in ovulation, menstruation, and insulin sensitivity.
Many women with PCOS find it tougher to shed pounds than those who do not have PCOS. Despite this, the effort is well worth it. Move in whatever way feels good to you – walking, yoga, swimming, dancing. And improve your diet by replacing processed foods with whole grains and food high in dietary fiber. Moderate exercise and a healthy diet not only help improve your odds of becoming pregnant, they can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases, lower stress levels, and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
If you have, or suspect you may have, PCOS and would like more information please call Sher Fertility Institute New York at (646) 792-7476 to make an appointment. Your care team will assess your specific situation and determine the best course of treatment to put you on the path to parenthood.