Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal disorder. If you have this condition, you may recognise symptoms such as increased growth of facial hair, being overweight, and having irregular periods.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can sometimes reduce your chance of falling pregnant. Thankfully, there are natural and medical steps you can take to improve your chances.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a complex hormonal condition which affects some women of reproductive age. Many women who have PCOS are not aware of it. In fact, it may affect up to 26% of women between 15 and 44 years of age.
 

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

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It is characterised by many different symptoms, including having multiple cysts in the ovaries, hormonal imbalances, weight gain and irregular periods. You may have all or just a few of these symptoms.

Many cysts in your ovaries

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, you probably have many cysts in your ovaries. In fact, “polycystic” means “many cysts”.

The cysts are often filled with fluid and they may contain an immature egg. These eggs often don’t mature, which means you may not ovulate. This can also cause your periods to be irregular - or not show up at all.

Hormonal issues

The hormonal issues around PCOS are complex. You may not ovulate regularly or at all, as a result of these issues. Your hormones are the reason for your PCOS symptoms.

For example, if your testosterone level is high, you may experience excessive facial hair and acne. However, high testosterone may not be one of your issues. Everyone with PCOS is different. At Fertility Specialists of WA we work to understand ‘you’ and ‘your’ symptoms.

Irregular periods and infertility

You have a period when your uterine lining sheds after ovulation. If you have PCOS you may not ovulate regularly and therefore you may not have regular periods.

Some women with PCOS don’t have periods at all. Other women have a heavier period than normal.

"Another consequence of irregular ovulation and irregular periods is infertility. In fact, polycystic ovary syndrome is a leading cause of infertility in women."
Professor Roger Hart, Fertility Specialist, Gynaecologist, and PCOS specialist, Perth

Hair, skin and weight problems

Many women with PCOS have problems with excess hair growth on their body. For example, you may have excess growth of facial hair. Also, you might experience hair-loss on your head or even male-pattern baldness.

Another symptom is acne on your face and upper body. This is due to an excess of some of the male hormones.

Weight problems are another common symptom. In fact, up to 80% of women with this condition are overweight. Along with being overweight, you may also experience sleep apnoea.

Serious health conditions

Unfortunately, polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with some serious health problems.

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, you may have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Your risk of these conditions is even higher if you are also overweight or obese. Therefore, we strongly recommend weight loss if you are overweight and have PCOS.

Key points

Some symptoms of PCOS include, but are not limited to:

Cysts in your ovaries

Hormonal imbalance

Hair, skin and weight issues

Other serious health conditions

How is PCOS diagnosed?

This condition is often diagnosed following a blood test to check hormone levels, a history of irregular periods and an ultrasound showing cysts in your ovaries. The physical symptoms, like acne and the growth of facial hair, will also be taken into account when a diagnosis is made.

That said, you may have more symptoms - or you may have fewer. Your doctor will evaluate your medical history and other symptoms you experience.

"Our fertility specialist clinic is affiliated with the NHMRC funded Centre for Research Excellence in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. That means we are highly qualified to help women with PCOS."
Dr Doreen Yeap, Fertility Specialist, Gynaecologist, and PCOS Specialist, Perth

Can you treat PCOS naturally?

Diet and exercise are natural ways to reduce some of the symptoms you may experience with polycystic ovary syndrome. Especially if you are also overweight or obese.

How to lose weight with PCOS really depends on your personal circumstances. Similarly, a good PCOS diet is individual and depends on your health. For example, if you also have diabetes or other health conditions, this must be considered.

We can refer you to a trained PCOS dietitian in Perth. Please discuss this with us.
"In general, any diet and any type of exercise that helps you achieve a healthy weight might help treat or minimise your PCOS symptoms in the long term."
Dr John Love, Fertility Specialist, Gynaecologist, and PCOS Specialist, Perth

What is the medical treatment for PCOS?

 

The treatment depends on your individual situation. If you are a PCOS patient, talk to your doctor or our clinic for the best way for you to proceed.

Medical treatment options include:

Metformin for PCOS

Improves insulin levels and insulin resistance. It can help you lose weight, and possibly help you achieve a more regular menstrual cycle.

Birth control

Certain types of birth control contain both oestrogen and progesterone. Taking these hormones on a daily basis might help you have a more regular menstrual cycle. It can also help reduce symptoms associated with elevated male hormones.

Weight loss drugs

If you have trouble losing weight, you can consider taking certain weight loss medications, however, this must be done in consultation with your GP.

Other medication

Sometimes gonadotrophins (which are hormones) can be prescribed during monitored fertility treatment. These might help you ovulate.

Getting pregnant with PCOS?

As explained, polycystic ovary syndrome is the leading cause of infertility in women.

If you are trying to fall pregnant, certain fertility drugs stimulate the ovaries. If you have PCOS you are at increased risk of a condition called hyperstimulation because you already have many follicles.

Hyperstimulation is more commonly known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This is a result of your ovaries maturing too many eggs at once, because of the medication. At Fertility Specialists of WA we monitor you carefully to reduce your risk.

If you have been trying for a long time with no success, sometimes surgery can be an option. We will discuss the best treatment with you at our clinic.

To learn more about getting pregnant with this condition, talk to our clinic which specialises in PCOS in Perth.

IVM, IUI or IVF for PCOS?

If you are unsuccessful with one type of fertility treatment, there are other options, even if you have PCOS.

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