Some women can decide that they are ready to get pregnant and then will be able to conceive relatively easily. For other women, it can take much longer, and the issues and disappointment they face in the process can really take their toll.
If you have been trying to get pregnant with repeated failures, there might be something a bit more serious going on than just bad luck or bad timing. One of the most common reasons women have trouble conceiving is a condition called PCOS.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which a complex hormonal condition that affects women. It is a chronic condition and may last for years; for some women, it will be a lifelong problem.
It can present in a number of different ways and can cause a variety of symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, skin problems and acne, excessive facial and body hair growth, and an increased risk of diabetes and fertility issues.
What it means is that the sufferer has many cysts or partially-formed follicles on her ovaries, each containing an egg. These follicles rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs that can be fertilised.
It is a very common condition and may be one of the main causes behind fertility problems. Somewhere between 12% and 18% of women of reproductive age may have PCOS, although experts estimate that around 70% of cases of the condition are undiagnosed.
The cause is mostly unknown. It can run in families or be brought on in conjunction with weight gain. Women with PCOS usually have high levels of insulin and are often high in male hormones called ‘androgens’.
What are the signs of PCOS?
The signs of PCOS can be hard to pick up because they may seem general in nature, and many of them are attributable to other causes.
According to the Victorian Government Better Health website, the symptoms of PCOS may include:
- irregular menstrual cycles – menstruation may be less or more frequent due to less frequent ovulation (release of an egg)
- amenorrhoea (no periods) – some women with PCOS do not menstruate, in some cases for many years
- excessive facial or body hair growth (or both)
- scalp hair loss
- reduced fertility (difficulty in becoming pregnant) – related to less frequent or absent ovulation
- mood changes – including anxiety and depression
- sleep apnoea.
But you don’t have to suffer from all of these symptoms to have PCOS.
Women facing fertility problems and having issues conceiving can naturally feel anxious, worried or even depressed. But what you thought was a side effect of the repeated difficulties you are facing could actually be a sign of PCOS, which directly affects your mood.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
It is best to talk to your GP if you suspect that you have PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Your doctor may order some basic tests including an ultrasound and blood tests to measure your hormone levels.
What are the treatment options for PCOS?
Like many conditions, PCOS is not necessarily cured as such, but with small adjustments, it can be easily monitored and managed.
Depending on the severity of your condition and how long you have suffered from it, your treatment may involve a team of health professionals. Treatment for PCOS could include:
- lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss, and exercise
- medication to regulate your menstrual cycle, block hormones, manage high cholesterol or treat infertility
- treatment directly for your skin
- treatment for hair removal
- psychological counselling
Weight loss and Dietary Changes may be all that you need
With PCOS, lifestyle changes are often all that is needed. Experts report that a change in diet and a small weight loss can reverse many of the symptoms of PCOS, including helping fertility, periods, mood, and hair and skin problems.
Sometimes just a visit to a nutritionist for a chat about your symptoms and medical history can be incredibly beneficial. A good nutritionist will be able to consider your current lifestyle and some individualised advice on a healthy diet and effective weight loss program could be all that you require.
What if you don’t get treatment? What are the long-term risks?
If PCOS goes undetected and unmanaged long-term there are some severe health risks which can occur as a result.
These risks can include:
- insulin resistance
- increased risk of the development of diabetes, especially if women are overweight
- cholesterol and blood fat abnormalities
- cardiovascular disease (heart disease, heart attack, and stroke)
- endometrial cancer.
You can also suffer from infertility problems, meaning it will harder to conceive. Some women with untreated PCOS may never be able to get pregnant.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Summary
If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms listed above, then you might have PCOS. You should talk to your GP as a place to start to get more information.
Because the condition is quite common, you should know that you aren’t alone. It may also help to know that there is so much that can be done to treat your condition and improve both your fertility and your long-term health prospects.
It can be easily treated and managed but early diagnosis is important because the long-term risks of going undiagnosed can be quite serious.
Even if you aren’t suffering from PCOS, weight loss and improving your diet can offer your body so much benefit, especially if you are trying to conceive.
If you would like more information on some easy, healthy dietary changes you can make to get your body to its best, contact Red Clover Health today.