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Kristyn Hodgdon is an IVF mom, proud fertility advocate, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Rescripted. This article is the opinion of the author and reflects the author's views. The author is not a healthcare professional.
When it comes to trying – and struggling – to get pregnant, knowing what to be aware of and realizing ongoing symptoms in your body might be indicative of a larger diagnosis can be incredibly helpful. Have you or your doctor ever noticed any of the following symptoms?
· Ovarian cysts – your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs, and therefore may fail to function regularly
· Excess androgen/male hormones – elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair, and occasionally severe acne or baldness
· Irregular or skipped periods – you may have infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual cycles (for example, fewer than 9 periods a year or abnormally heavy periods)
If so, you may be one of the over 116 million women affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, according to the data from the World Health Organization in 2012. In other words, according to the World Health Organization, you may be one of the 3.4% of women worldwide who are affected by PCOS – meaning you’re not alone.
Expert groups have determined that a woman must have two out of three of the above-mentioned symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS and further have no other cause of elevated androgen or irregular periods which blood tests can confirm. While there is no single test for diagnosing PCOS, if your doctor suspects you have PCOS, blood glucose and cholesterol tests may be utilized.
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What Is PCOS, and What Does It Have to Do With Infertility?
When it comes to infertility in women, PCOS is one of the most common causes. PCOS is a heterogeneous endocrine disorder affecting women’s hormone levels, making it harder for them to get pregnant. Risk factors that may increase your likelihood of having PCOS are genetics, neuroendocrine disorders, obesity, lifestyle, and environment.
How Does PCOS Impact My Fertility?
Between 70 and 80 percent of women with PCOS have fertility challenges. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts.” As its meaning indicates, in PCOS, many small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation, which can alter levels of estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) in the body.
Extra male hormones, or androgens, may disrupt the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual. To get pregnant, ovulation is an important step. Therefore, women with irregular periods who don’t ovulate regularly don’t release as many eggs to be fertilized, making pregnancy more difficult.
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So, What Now?
If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, you may want to consider visiting a doctor who specializes in infertility:
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· If you are trying to conceive and experiencing irregular menstrual cycles
· You have excess hair growth on your face and body
· You’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months without success
· You have symptoms of diabetes, such as excess hunger or thirst, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, be sure to let your healthcare provider know so you can be evaluated, and consider making an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist.
Fertility treatments may be able to help women with PCOS. You may be able to get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation. Lifestyle changes like incorporating exercise and healthy eating into your routine may improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
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Advocate for Yourself
If you do have PCOS, patient-centered care by a multidisciplinary team may help reach the main goals of PCOS management, including symptom relief, safe fertility planning, general well-being, and prevention of long-term complications. Remember, you are your own best advocate when it comes to your sexual and reproductive health and fertility. Visit fertilityjourney.com to learn more.