Is This The Root Cause of Your Infertility?
I got my periods when I was around 13 years old. I have always had them regular and were generally never off track. Marriage did not change things either. I have a childhood friend, who had also got her first periods almost about the same time when I did. I remember as young girls, how we discussed our little secrets and how it made us uncomfortable at times to deal with the discomfort that came along. She was slightly on the obese side and had heavy periods. Her periods were irregular too. Her mother and grandmother considered that as her biological tendency.
I recently met her and we had a good time catching up with each other. Our conversations involved everything from in laws, husband, work to having kids. While I am blessed with a baby and as I spoke in length as to how the two pink lines on the pregnancy test with Mankind’s Preganews, a leading pregnancy detection card, gave me my first sense of motherhood, she expressed her struggle to conceive a baby. As we spoke more, I got to know that she has been diagnosed with PCOS, that is causing her the inability to conceive.
While she was well informed by her Doctor as to how she could treat this disorder, I decided to do some research of my own.
What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder seen in women of reproductive age. In PCOS, the egg follicles get trapped just under the surface of the ovary due to which ovaries are unable to release eggs, a process important for normal ovulation and subsequent conception. As ovulation is missing in PCOS, menstrual cycles become irregular and in some cases is completely absent. Irregular periods can lead to infertility.In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
Sometimes benign cysts(small fluid filled sacs) develop in ovaries which either dissolve with medication or require surgery for removal.
Symptoms of PCOS
- Excess weight
- Unwanted hair growth on face
- Increased acne
- Irregular periods
- Heavy periods
Women may have one of more of these symptoms. These symptoms can develop as early as in puberty and can be mistaken for puberty symptoms.In older women, adult acne is the first visible symptom apart from other symptoms.
Complications related to PCOS
PCOS is related to type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If not treated or controlled, PCOS can lead to increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and coronary diseases.
Hormonal imbalance in PCOS can lead to depression, lower libido and cause mental stress affecting relationships.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS is not known. It is not a disease in its own but an outcome of improper lifestyle, diet and lack of exercise. Genetics too play an important role in PCOS. Risk of PCOS may be higher if you have obesity or if you have a mother, sister or aunt with PCOS.
In PCOS, levels of male hormones known as androgens are higher than expected. This imbalance prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation) during menstrual cycle and results in an inability to conceive.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
At your gyno's office, your doctor will observe you for the obvious visible symptoms like excess weight, hair on face, acne and so on and so forth.
Additionally the doctor will do the following routine to rule out any other health issues before concluding the diagnosis as PCOS:
- Analyze your menstrual cycle
- Perform a BMI test
- Conduct an ultrasound either abdominal or transvaginal
- Discuss family medical history
- Conduct a general pelvic examination
- Ask for blood reports to analyze levels of androgens
While PCOS cannot be cured since it is not a disease but a disorder, there are ways to control and treat the same. Birth control pills (hormone therapy) or medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes, help to regularize menstrual cycles. However, this is not a solution for women who are looking to conceive.
The best approach is to treat and control the causes of PCOS. This majorly includes reducing weight, eating healthy and following an exercise routine. Sedentary lifestyle is the root cause of all health issues and disorders.
While women with PCOS go for many other methods to conceive like IVF and surgery, the best primary approach should be treating the disorder such that conception can be natural.
When I was doing this research, I realised that many of the symptoms of PCOS were probably prevalent in my friend from a very young age. But due to lack of awareness about this syndrome, like her, many women fail to recognize the importance of addressing the underlying issue of being unable to conceive hence end up feeling depressed and dejected.
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