By Brandi M. Seals
Most women grow up dreaming of their futures. They think they will fall in love with a good man and have lots of children. Sometimes that dream is harder to obtain than we thought. As one of many who has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) I know that when I go to conceive, I will probably have trouble.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has many symptoms and consequences - infertility is the one of most concern to those trying to conceive. Reading any sort of information online about PCOS usually gets me down. It is all about how it is hard to conceive, to keep the pregnancy or even produce enough milk once the child is born. There is also a nice long list of what PCOS can do to us.
PCOS is caused when there are disturbances in the body's hormones, generally resulting in too much testosterone. Its affects are far reaching, but it particularly affects the ovaries, leading to ovulation problems. PCOS is known by many names, such as Hyperandrogenic Annovulation Syndrome, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) and Polycystic Ovaries (PCO).
Symptoms of PCOS include:
Absent or irregular menstrual periods
Infertility - the inability to conceive after twelve or more months of trying
Hirsutism - heavy hair growth, typically on the face, chest, abdomen or inner thighs
Obesity - excess fat typically accumulating in the abdominal area
Alopecia - hair loss or baldness
Skin Tags - small growths of skin that are raised or hang
Acanthosis Nigricans - darkened patches of the skin generally on the neck, groin, underarms or in skin folds
Your OB/GYN should be able to diagnose you with PCOS. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor. He or she will use one of the following test to determine if you have the condition:
Ultrasound - An ultrasound of the ovaries may reveal several small cysts (caused when eggs do not mature fully and are not released).
Blood Tests - A blood test will reveal hormone levels. Those with PCOS have higher androgen (male hormone) levels.
Cause of PCOS
The cause is not yet known but insulin resistance is a major contributor. In fact, when the insulin resistance is treated, many of the PCOS symptoms clear up. There is a genetic predisposition to get PCOS if close blood relatives also have it.
Conceiving with PCOS
Talk with your doctor before you start trying. Many women are put on birth control to treat the symptoms of PCOS. You should not go cold turkey. Your doctor can prescribe progesterone or a diabetes medicine (to treat insulin resistance) to help treat the symptoms while you try to conceive.
The most important thing to do is find out when you are ovulating. There are a number of ways you can do this. Some people have very irregular periods and so it is harder to know when they are ovulating, others like me are completely regular with the use of medicine.
The most cost-effective approach is to get a basal thermometer. It is more sensitive than a typical thermometer and can detect minor shifts in temperature. You will want to start by taking your temperature each morning at the same time. Chart your findings. When your temperature is up about .5 degrees, you are ovulating. When you are not ovulating, there probably will be no noticeable change.
Be aware that over the counter ovulation predictors may not work the best for those with PCOS. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of luteinizing hormone, which is the hormone that these tests measure. The test may come up positive when really you are not ovulating. Plus, it can be expensive if you have long cycles.
Exercise and eating right also help a lot. Dropping just 10 pounds can help your cycle become more regular, which will increase the odds of conceiving.
Try joining a support group. There are several women with PCOS out there trying to conceive. You can find several online support groups that will answer any questions, especially about the fertility treatments available. Sometimes it is hard to talk to others that do not understand what you are going through. These women are in the same boat as you. They will understand and can help if you let them.