Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a common hormone disorder that affects 5-10% of all women in their reproductive years. PCOS accounts for nearly one-third of all infertility diagnoses and is very common among women with ovulatory disorders.
PCOS is one of the most under diagnosed diseases in the United States and surprisingly, most women who have it do not even know it. The truth is that most women are never officially diagnosed with PCOS until they start attempting to get pregnant. Difficulties with getting pregnant may be due to the irregular cycles that accompany PCOS and may require some type of treatment to improve the chances for pregnancy.
The reality is that polycystic ovary syndrome is highly treatable and most women affected by this disease can still achieve pregnancy with treatment. Often a woman can improve the chance of pregnancy with minor lifestyle adjustments like achieving weight loss, or through the use of medications to support ovulation, and going through minor infertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI). For women that need additional help conceiving, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is also a highly effective form of treatment for those affected by PCOS.
COMMON POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME SYMPTOMS?
The most common symptoms for PCOS include acne, excess hair growth, obesity, depression, infertility and missed or irregular menstrual cycles. PCOS can also cause a women to stop menstruating entirely. Patients may also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or insulin resistance (e.g. pre-diabetes or diabetes).
WHAT CAUSES PCOS?
PCOS may be in part hereditary, but is also caused by hormonal imbalances in a woman’s body preventing the ovulation process. Ovulation is when a woman’s body produces and releases an egg from the ovary. Women with PCOS may have cycles where no egg release is delayed, or may not happen at all. Hormonal imbalances may also occur, with an increase in testosterone and other androgens. This can lead to the excess hair growth that is sometimes seen with PCOS.
HOW IS PCOS DIAGNOSED?
At Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, patients will undergo standard fertility testing but additional exams may be required in order to diagnose PCOS properly. These tests can include:
- Blood hormone levels – blood test that reveal the levels of certain hormones in your blood, such as FSH, LH, estrogen (estradiol), and androgens (testosterone and DHEAS).
- Ultrasound – a scan that uses sound waves to identify the many small cysts in the ovaries and can also determine if ovaries are enlarged.
- Endometrial biopsy – a procedure in which a sample of your uterine lining is examined to confirm there are no abnormal changes that can be seen with missed periods.
Your physician will determine the best treatment options for you based on your individual test results and will create a personalized course of action to help you increase your chances to achieving pregnancy.
FERTILITY TREATMENTS FOR WOMEN WITH PCOS?
Depending on the patients initial testing, our fertility specialists may recommend several options that are tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Physicians may recommend one or more of the following:
- Timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Use of medications to stimulate ovulation
- Use of other medications such as oral contraceptives or insulin-sensitizing medication to improve irregular, heavy periods and other symptoms
- Recommend weight loss and a consultation with one of our fertility nutritionists to improve hormone imbalance
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Women with PCOS can still achieve pregnancy with the proper diagnosis and treatment. To learn more about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or to schedule a new patient consult please call our Patient Services Team at 973-656-2089.