Fertility is fascinating. Many processes–from hormones to sperm production–are involved, requiring perfect functioning and coordination for the whole system to work. And it’s all done without much conscious effort. That’s why it can be so frustrating when something is not functioning as it should–we feel helpless to understand where the problem lies and what can be done to correct it.
Maybe you’ve heard about some of the conditions that can hinder your fertility–such as PCOS–but you’re not really sure if it applies to you. In this blog, we’ll explore polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and its relationship to a woman’s fertility.
PCOS is a syndrome, meaning that it is characterized by a group of symptoms. One in ten women who is between the stages of puberty and menopause has been diagnosed with the condition. Women with PCOS may suffer from these symptoms:
Despite the name, not all women with PCOS have cysts. The most common indications of polycystic ovary syndrome include lack of ovulation and high levels of androgens. Androgens are male reproductive hormones, such as testosterone, that are normally found in small amounts in females.
The cause of PCOS is a hormonal imbalance, along with malfunctioning metabolism. Certain risk factors can increase your chances of being diagnosed with PCOS, including obesity or a family history of the disease.
Many women don’t realize they have PCOS until they struggle to become pregnant. After some time of trying, they may start looking for an explanation and solution–leading them into the OBGYN’s office, which provides a diagnosis: PCOS.
Hormones are critical to fertility and to successful reproduction. They give the body instructions, like telling the ovaries when to release the egg (ovulation). When the reproductive hormones are out of balance, the reproductive system malfunctions–often resulting in infertility. Specifically, PCOS can affect egg development and ovulation.
PCOS is a common cause of infertility. Many women with the syndrome do not ovulate regularly, or at all, because of hormonal imbalances. There is a bright side, though. Some women with PCOS are still able to conceive without any intervention.
Whether you have already been diagnosed with PCOS, or you suspect that you have PCOS, both circumstances allow you to check whether the disease is affecting your ovulation. At-home fertility testing is one way that women can check for ovulation. At-home fertility testing is available to measure hormone levels that indicate proper reproductive functioning, including ovulation.
My Virtual Physician has partnered with Orchid to bring our patients at-home fertility testing options. Their hormonal test kits are available to our patients at an affordable cost. Their female hormone test can provide feedback about whether your body is ovulating by testing FSH, LH, and prolactin levels. If you’re interested in checking your fertility at home, Orchid has the solution.
The short answer is yes, PCOS is treatable. But it is more complicated than that. If PCOS is causing infertility, you’re probably wondering what you can do to treat it.
One aspect of PCOS treatment is very important to understand–your treatment method will vary depending on whether you want to relieve symptoms or treat infertility caused by PCOS. That’s because some PCOS treatments aren’t compatible with fertility.
Oral contraceptives, for example, are one way to manage PCOS symptoms, but will prevent pregnancy. Anti-androgen medications are another treatment for PCOS symptoms like acne or abnormal hair growth, but this treatment can cause birth defects if you become pregnant. So be sure to communicate your fertility goals with your provider.
Some lifestyle changes can improve your PCOS symptoms, including dietary changes, losing weight, or increasing exercise. Specifically, reducing dairy and carbs can help with the symptoms.
Some common treatments for PCOS-related infertility include medications that:
Understanding what polycystic ovary syndrome is can give you a holistic view of how it might affect your fertility. Even if you're unsure about whether your fertility has been affected by PCOS, there is no harm in completing at-home fertility testing to find out. With today’s advancements in healthcare, conceiving with PCOS is possible. Book your appointment today to discuss PCOS or to get your fertility test kit.