September is PCOS Awareness Month, which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This disorder impacts more than 10 million women worldwide, and it is estimated that more than half don’t even know they have it! PCOS is a condition that is caused by hormones in women who are in their childbearing years. In helping to bring attention to this disorder, we hope to help women who struggle with PCOS to obtain a concrete diagnosis and get the help they need.
You may have PCOS if you have menstrual cycles that are irregular and lengthy, or your body creates too much of the male hormone androgen and you don’t always release your eggs. This could be caused by fluid-filled follicles in your ovaries. And while the cause of PCOS hasn’t yet been found, diagnosing it as early as possible can still bring relief through various treatments. One of the biggest factors in treating PCOS is losing weight, as obesity also brings with it type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One thing is also clear, the more weight you carry, the worse PCOS seems to be.
This disorder can start when you get your first menstrual period, as early as puberty. It can also arise if you put on a lot of extra pounds. Essentially, you can receive a diagnosis of PCOS if you have at least two of these symptoms:
-Your periods are irregular. Whether you have fewer periods than you should normally have, having excessively long periods, or cycles that are irregular and unpredictable can indicate PCOS. Some women have just a few periods in a year, and when they do, they are often heavy bleeding periods.
-Your body produces too much of the hormone androgen. Known as male hormones, they can be created in your body leaving you with too much facial and body hair. They can also produce severe acne and male-pattern baldness, where the hair thins so much it creates balding as the hairline recedes.
-Your ovaries develop many tiny follicles of fluid that don’t regularly release your monthly eggs.
The medical field hasn’t as yet determined what exactly causes PCOS in women. But there are definitely some common signs to be aware of. In addition to producing excess androgen and carrying excessive weight, you may also be genetically predisposed to PCOS. For example, if your pancreas creates too much insulin (a hormone that helps your cells use sugar, which is your body’s primary energy supplier), because too much insulin interferes with ovulation. As your cells become resistant to insulin production, your blood sugar levels can spike because your body creates more insulin. If you have a low-grade inflammation, this can also cause your ovaries to produce more androgens, eventually damaging your heart and blood vessels.
Having PCOS can lead to the following health concerns:
-Gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
-High blood pressure from pregnancy
-Liver inflammation from fat build-up
-Metabolic syndrome, leaving you with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels
-Depression and anxiety
Our team at the Utah Fertility Center is committed to increasing awareness of PCOS so women can find the help they need. While a cure is not yet available, the symptoms can be treated to increase your quality of life!
Losing weight is key, with a loss of even just 5% of your body weight making a major difference! There are medications that can help to regulate your menstrual cycle including patches, pills or a vaginal ring. There are medications that can stimulate your ovaries, reduce your insulin levels and reduce unsightly facial hair growth. Progestin therapy can also help with your periods while protecting you against endometrial cancer.
Changes to Your Lifestyle
Finding a weight-loss method that you enjoy and exercising regularly can make a sizable dent in your PCOS symptoms. Getting good sleep is also beneficial, and if you are always feeling stressed, consider implementing a stress-relieving technique like yoga, meditation, walking in nature or whatever helps you feel better physically and mentally.
At the Utah Fertility Center in Utah, we have experts to help you manage PCOS. We invite you to call us at 801-785-5100 to learn more. Ask for our health coach who can help establish a personalized wellness program. Consult with one of our board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologists who have helped many women suffering from PCOS to improve their quality of life. Together, we can successfully manage your symptoms!