If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, you’re far from alone. Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common endocrine disorder for women of childbearing age. If you’re trying to get pregnant and are having difficulty conceiving, it may be due to PCOS; one-third of women with PCOS also have trouble getting pregnant.
However, it may be possible to get pregnant despite PCOS. Dr. Edmund J. Ramirez of The Fertility & Gynecology Center Monterey Bay IVF is an expert on PCOS and other causes of infertility.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a complex disorder that affects 6-12% of women. While it has a major impact on fertility, it also presents health risks that may last well beyond your childbearing years.
Women with PCOS are often insulin-resistant, which presents a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They can also have higher levels of androgens, which are “male” hormones. These androgens often prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.
In addition to being at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, PCOS also increases your risk for other diseases, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
You can manage these risks, but you need some additional help from a doctor.
The symptoms of PCOS
If you have PCOS, you might have some symptoms that can give you a clue, even before Dr. Ramirez orders blood tests or an ultrasound. Some of the common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular or frequently missed periods
- Excess hair growth on your body (a condition called hirsutism)
- Skin tags
- Oily skin
- Patches of thick, darkened skin, especially on your neck, groin, or underneath your breasts
- Thin hair on your scalp
Many women with PCOS are also overweight or obese, particularly around their midsection. However, it’s also possible to have PCOS and not have problems with your weight.
How PCOS impacts your fertility
Polycystic ovary syndrome impacts your fertility in several ways. One is the excess production of androgens, which can block your ovaries from releasing an egg and result in the formation of tiny cysts on the ovaries.
A second is that the outer shells of the ovaries become thicker, which makes it harder for them to release an egg.
And finally, high levels of insulin circulating in your blood can interfere with ovulation.
How we treat PCOS
PCOS doesn’t mean you can’t ever get pregnant. If you decide you want to try to conceive, you may first get a prescription for a medication called clomiphene citrate (or Clomid®).
Clomiphene induces ovulation, which may be enough to enable you to get pregnant.
You may also try glucophage (Metformin®) to regulate your insulin levels. You may use glucophage and clomiphene together or separately.
If your PCOS doesn’t respond to either glucophage or clomiphene, you can try other methods to get pregnant. These may include in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Dr. Ramirez will likely begin your journey toward conception by doing some blood tests and an ultrasound to confirm that you have PCOS. To learn more, and to find out if you do have PCOS, call The Fertility & Gynecology Center Monterey Bay IVF at 831-649-4483, or request an appointment online.