Your Top Questions About PCOS Answered
[Published July 2021]
What does PCOS stand for?
PCOS is the acronym used for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is the leading condition that can affect a woman’s ability to achieve pregnancy naturally. It is believed to affect 1 in 10 women in the UK and globally.
A woman’s ovaries contain follicles; the sacs which develop and mature eggs for release within a menstrual cycle. With PCOS, these sacs are often underdeveloped and unable to mature / release an egg, meaning that ovulation does not occur.
What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is believed to be related to an imbalance in certain hormone levels, such as; increased testosterone, high levels of luteinising hormone [LH], low levels of sex hormone binding globulin [SHBG] and potentially raised levels of prolactin.
Defective insulin or resistance to insulin has also been known to interfere with the development of the follicle sacs within which the eggs develop. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain which may exacerbate existing symptoms. Women with PCOS are more likely to develop diabetes if the condition is left unmanaged.
Research suggests that there may be a genetic link to developing PCOS, although any specific genes relating to the condition have not yet been identified.
Is there a cure for PCOS?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS, but the condition can be managed with appropriate treatment. Depending on the clinical presentation for each woman, the treatment options available may also vary.
It is also acknowledged that a weight loss of just 5% can lead to a significant improvement in PCOS symptoms. However, women with PCOS are more likely to experience difficulty in achieving a loss, despite their best intentions, a healthier diet and introduction of a new fitness regime, as, by its very nature – PCOS can hinder weight loss.
It may be beneficial to speak to a dietician if you need specific advice to help get started.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
There is no single definitive test to diagnose PCOS, as women with the condition can present with an array of different symptoms and some women do not experience any symptoms at all!
A clinical diagnosis can be made following medical review of these three main criteria:
- Cycle Regularity - Irregular cycles / inability to ovulate
- Signs of Androgen Excess ie. Facial hair
- An ultrasound fertility scan - to review whether there are visible cysts on the ovaries
IVF Matters also offers a PCOS Profile package which is a comprehensive screening package including 13 specialist tests. Learn more>
Can PCOS affect your chances of getting pregnant?
PCOS might affect your chances of getting pregnant naturally as irregular cycles and hormonal imbalances can hamper your best efforts. Typically, women diagnosed with PCOS may suffer from subfertility, meaning that their reproductive organs are not functioning optimally to enable them to achieve a natural pregnancy.
What is the best Fertility Treatment for PCOS?
Ovulation induction and IVF treatment have helped many women diagnosed with PCOS get pregnant and sustain a pregnancy to full term, to have healthy babies.
However, not all women with PCOS will need assisted conception. It is important to speak to a Fertility Consultant who specialises in female subfertility and PCOS, as they can more easily identify what tailored fertility treatment pathway will suit an individuals’ need, leading to a successful outcome.
Does pregnancy cure PCOS?
Unfortunately, not, although it is common for some women to experience a cessation of symptoms during their pregnancy. Some women may also experience an improvement in their menstrual cycles for a short while after giving birth.
Where can I get help to get pregnant?
PCOS can cause fertility problems when you are trying to conceive but with the right treatment, from a Fertility Specialist with experience and expert knowledge in this area, there is a good chance of achieving a family. Dr Koita, Fertility Consultant here at IVF Matters specialises in female subfertility and has helped many women with PCOS go on to realise their dream of having a successful pregnancy.