What Is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine abnormalities faced by women of reproductive age. It affects 5-10% of women, making it the leading cause of female infertility. PCOS involves an overproduction of the ovarian androgens (male hormones) which can lead to a variety of symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, acne, oligo-ovulation (irregular) or anovulation (lack of ovulation), hirutism (male pattern/excessive hair growth) and infertility. Some signs that are present with women suffering from PCOS include increased insulin levels, difficulty losing weight, obesity, blood sugar irregularities and multiple ovarian follicles arranged in a pearl necklace shape around with ovaries. It is important to note that some women who may have PCOS may show none of the usual signs or symptoms mentioned above so it is important to get a professional diagnosis and not to assume.
PCOS usually shows itself during puberty or later when a woman is in her early to mid-twenties. If left untreated it can cause more health issues. Generally, though if monitored PCOS can disappear at menopause of before.
When most women here the word “cysts” they assume that it is large golf ball sized cysts. However, with PCOS the cyst are tiny. On an ultrasound they look like little black dots on an ovary, there cysts are actually eggs that have failed to properly mature and release from the ovary.
What Causes PCOS?
At this stage there is no consensus in medical literature about the causes of PCOS. However, some research claims that this condition may have a genetic factor and run in families – although there is no specific link established as yet. However, do not let that dishearten you, studies have shown that while you cannot change your genes, you can change how your genes react to your environment. This can be seen by research proposing that the environmental and lifestyle triggers play a role in the development of PCOS. For example the contraceptive pill, sugar and high carbohydrate intake, weight gain and particular nutritional deficiencies are amongst some of the factors associated with PCOS. So by minimising lifestyle factors that can perpetuate the condition you can reduce the symptoms of PCOS. This is also a key aspect of staying fertile for longer and preserving your fertility for when you are ready to have a baby.
Risks Associated With PCOS
Women who suffer from PCOS are more prone to developing insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome later in life if the condition is not properly managed. Research suggests that due to excessive thickening of the endometrium – as a result of lack of periods – there is a small increase in the risk of uterine cancer. However, having at least 2-3 cycles per year adequately protects women from this risk.
How Does This Affect My Fertility?
PCOS is a leading cause of lowered fertility in women. There are a variety of reasons why women with PCOS have difficulty falling pregnant. These can include:
- Hormone imbalance
- Genetic composition
- High intake of Trans Fatty Acids
- Oestrogen dominance
- Elevated insulin
- Weight gain
- Certain medications
What Treatments Are Available?
There are medical treatments available which can be discussed with your family doctor. However, research has shown that the best and most effective course of action is one of natural consistency through diet and exercise. Studies have determined that naturopathic treatment of the imbalances and weaknesses associated with PCOS is very successful and will dramatically increase the odds of conceiving naturally. Consulting a Natural Health Care professional, such as a Naturopath, Herbalist or Acupuncturist can help you get on the right track. Having a treatment plan involving pre-conception care can assist in increasing the chances of falling pregnant naturally, as well as minimising the symptoms of PCOS.
Some women with milder cases of PCOS find that symptoms disappear completely after a period of treatment. However, studies have shown that for best results in the long term the most effective PCOS treatments involve permanent lifestyle changes that support optimum general health.
According to research the most successful way to fall pregnant naturally for those who have PCOS is to balance your hormones naturally. This is can be accomplished by consulting a qualified Natural Therapist, who can devise a treatment care especially for you to reduce PCOS and increase your fertility.