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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most frequent causes of female infertility. Also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, the condition affects how a woman’s ovaries function and in turn influences a woman’s fertility. The polycystic ovaries contain a large sum of tiny cysts triggered by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. These harmless follicles (fluid), are identified as underdeveloped sacs where eggs develop; up to 8mm in size. PCOS prevents the sacs releasing eggs; subsequently preventing ovulation. Although there is no cure for PCOS the health condition is treatable leading to an increased chance of conceiving.

PCOS Symptoms

PCOS affects around 1 in 10 women of a childbearing age; half of which do not have any symptoms. A woman may have one symptom, others them all, meaning it is not always easily identifiable as PCOS without a professional’s expertise. Generally, a woman will question whether they have the condition if they are struggling to fall pregnant, however this could have been with them since their first menstrual period. 

 

PCOS symptoms vary but can include:

– Difficulty falling pregnant due to irregular ovulation or not ovulating at all

– Dark, thick patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts or thighs. 

– Excessive hair growth on the face and body (hirsutism)

– Irregular periods or absent periods

– Weight gain on the waistline

– Oily skin or acne

– Thinning hair on the scalp

– Pelvic tenderness

Ovarian cysts

– Sleep apnoea 

 

Women with PCOS can have excess levels of the male hormones’ androgens (which women’s bodies also have). These hormones can stop eggs being released, the process we know as ovulation – as well as causing many of the symptoms above. 

Diagnosis

If you have been trying to conceive naturally for over a year, we recommend you speak to your doctor or a fertility specialist. Up to 50 percent of women do not get diagnosed for PCOS due to the symptoms being mistaken for normal bodily functions. To diagnose polycystic ovaries here at The Evewell we undertake a full review of your history and symptoms before carrying out tests and procedures to determine if you have PCOS. We look into how severe your case is and whether you have any related problems for example: ovarian cysts or blocked fallopian tubes. Tests may include:

 

– Pelvic examination; a gynaecologist will visually and manually inspect reproductive organs for abnormalities.  

– Ultrasound; checking the ovaries appearance paying particular attention to the thickness of the uterus lining. 

– Blood tests; to measure hormone levels, glucose tolerance and more. 

– Laparoscopy

– MRI scan

 

An early diagnosis alongside treatment is important as it will minimise symptoms and may reduce the risk of long-term problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and long-term infertility.

PCOS Treatment

There are a variety of PCOS treatments to help a woman conceive a baby; medical and lifestyle related. If you are struggling to conceive we will schedule a consultation and the necessary tests to allow them to create an individualised plan of treatment. An option may be In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) – a successful fertility treatment known for helping women with polycystic ovaries. To learn more about IVF please click here.

 

A lifestyle change for PCOS is to maintain healthy weight via a balanced diet and exercise. This will allow you to lose weight if necessary, reducing insulin and androgen levels and may restore ovulation. For more information on how weight affects fertility read our full article.  Losing body weight will also improve the effectiveness of medications you could be prescribed by your doctor. Such as combination birth control pills, which contain oestrogen and progestin known for decreasing androgen production in turn counteracting PCOS symptoms such as acne, abnormal bleeding and excess hair growth. There are other fertility drugs which help control blood sugar and assists with inducing ovulation. Please make note that some medications will need to be stopped if you fall pregnant; so make sure you check with your doctor or fertility specialist. 

 

If PCOS is left untreated this can lead to long-term infertility therefore more specialist PCOS treatment will be required to enable a woman to have a baby. To explore more Fertility services click here.

Pregnancy with Polycystic Ovaries

Reaching a healthy weight/ sugar level will not only help a woman fall pregnant but it will help with pregnancy, as PCOS is still an issue once a woman has conceived but now also for the baby. A woman with the health condition is more at risk of complications during pregnancy (especially trimester 1), labour and delivery. 

Being overweight can increase the chances of miscarriage and gestational diabetes, however, following the correct diet and exercise regime, alongside any medication prescribed by a medical professional, you will be able to manage PCOS during pregnancy.

The Evewell

At The Evewell we offer a comprehensive and state-of-the-art fertility service enabling us to design an individualised care plan to reduce the effects of polycystic ovary syndrome. Our team of experts have a wealth of experience in PCOS treatment, for women who desire to become pregnant now and in the future. With timely diagnosis and the option of being referred to our fertility counsellor for support The Evewell creates a sensitive and supportive environment throughout your fertility journey. Get in touch by either emailing us at appoinments@evewell.com or giving us a call on 020 3974 0950.