Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, as it’s more popularly known, is a prevalent hormonal disorder observed among women; wherein women experience irregular and prolonged periods, or excessive male hormone levels. Therefore, while the primary causes of PCOS are not known, timely diagnosis and management can prevent many complications such as type 2 diabetes in the future.
Table of contents:
- Causes of PCOS
- Symptoms of PCOS
- What are the management programs for women suffering from PCOS?
- Can you get pregnant with PCOS?
- What are the risks for the mother pregnant with PCOS?
- What are the risks for the baby?
- Can PCOS complicate your delivery?
- PCOS and breastfeeding
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Causes of PCOS
While the exact reason for PCOS development is not known, many variables play a crucial role in determining this medical condition. These are:
#1 Insulin resistance
Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to utilise the sugar and provide energy to the body. Owing to many reasons, the tissues of the body might become resistant to the function of insulin, causing an increase in the blood sugar levels, and the subsequent increase in insulin levels. This increase in insulin levels can cause an increase in the prevalence of male hormones in the human body. These hormones prevent ovulation, thus disrupting the menstrual cycle.
#2 Family history
Recent research has shown that there are various genes associated with PCOS, thereby allowing heredity to be one of the causes of developing PCOS.
#3 Weight & lifestyle
PCOS can occur in both slender and overweight women. However, women with PCOS are at greater risk of being overweight or obese. Being above a healthy weight worsens insulin resistance, which is also thought to be a key part of the development of PCOS, and the symptoms of PCOS. Excess weight increases both the hormones responsible for PCOS symptoms.
#4 Hormone levels
An imbalance in the body of the hormones insulin and androgens (male-type hormones, such as testosterone) causes the symptoms and signs of PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS are tough to miss and are observed during the first menstrual period. In some instances, PCOS can also develop in young women much later due to excessive weight gain. The doctor confirms the diagnosis of this disorder if you observe any of the following symptoms:
- Polycystic ovaries: This is a condition wherein your ovaries are observed to be enlarged, containing follicles around the eggs, resulting in improper functioning.
- Irregular menstrual cycle: This accounts for irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles. This is one of the common symptoms of women with PCOS. You may also occasionally develop heavy periods.
- Increased androgen levels: You could also have increased levels of male hormones in the body that would cause many signs, such as excessive facial hair and male pattern baldness.
What are the management programs for women suffering from PCOS?
Management of women with PCOS depends on the symptoms. These could be ovulatory dysfunction-related infertility, menstrual disorders, or androgen-related symptoms.
While your doctor would perform blood tests, pelvic exams and ultrasounds to confirm PCOS diagnosis, post-confirmation, your doctor would introduce an array of treatment modalities that would help you treat PCOS. These are:
1. Changes in lifestyle
Your doctor would advise you to reduce your weight and have a diet low in calories. He would also encourage you to include physical activity. A moderate physical activity leading to even the slightest reduction in weight would greatly help.
Your doctor would recommend the following drugs to regulate your menstrual cycle. These are:
- Birth control pills – Your doctor would prescribe you birth control pills in the combination that contain progestin and estrogen that would reduce the levels of androgen, and increase the estrogen levels in the blood. This would also reduce your risk of developing various cancers.
- Progestin therapy – Your doctor may also advise you to take progestin continually for approximately two weeks to regulate the menstrual cycle.
- In addition to all this, your doctor would advise you to take drugs such as clomiphene, letrozole, metformin, and gonadotropins to help you ovulate. He may also prescribe you spironolactone, eflornithine and electrolysis to reduce the hair growth experienced by you due to increased androgen levels.
Can you get pregnant with PCOS?
It is possible to get pregnant with PCOS. This pregnancy can either happen on its own, or could be induced by medications that regulate ovulation. You can discuss your plan to get pregnant with your doctor.
What are the risks for the mother pregnant with PCOS?
There are many risks accounted for the mother pregnant with PCOS. Some of these risks are:
- Miscarriage – Many women suffering from PCOS may undergo a miscarriage in the early months of the pregnancy.
- Mood disorders – Pregnant mothers can also suffer from mood disorders, causing them to have anxiety and depression. They may also excessively eat due to the high levels of androgen hormones in their body.
- Pre-eclampsia – This is a medical condition wherein the pregnant mother would undergo high blood pressure, resulting in the swelling of the hands and feet. Preeclampsia usually develops after twenty weeks of the pregnancy and is completely treatable.
- Gestational diabetes – If you are suffering from PCOS and are pregnant, then your chances of having gestational diabetes, that is diabetes during your pregnancy is very high. This is usually treatable and would eventually reduce post-delivery.
What are the risks for the baby?
Just as PCOS poses risks for the mother, the baby can have many risks, such as undergoing a preterm birth. In this condition, the babies born to PCOS mothers would be born before the completion of thirty-seven weeks and would need a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to complete the rest of the development.
Can PCOS complicate your delivery?
PCOS has also shown to cause many complications during the delivery of the baby. Many of these complications are handled and managed by your doctor-in-charge. One of the common complications is the requirement of a C-section to deliver the baby due to the mother’s high blood pressure.
PCOS and breastfeeding
Post-delivery, it is important for the mother to start nursing her baby. Many women suffering from PCOS are able to nurse or breastfeed their baby with no problems, but some undergo certain complications. One of the problems is the under-supply of milk due to the hormonal imbalance in the body owing to increased androgen hormone levels. In addition to this, women with insulin resistance are also shown to have a reduced supply of milk. In order to deal with such complications, you could visit a lactation consultant; maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and timely intake of postnatal supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Aside from irregular periods, PCOS can result in a variety of complications such as type 2 diabetes, various metabolic syndromes, endometrial hyperplasia, liver inflammation, sleep apnea, and various mental diseases.
A. For mild PCOS, you can regulate and improve your conditions by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and making healthy lifestyle decisions. These help module normal hormone functioning in the body.
A. Regrettably, the hormone imbalance caused due to PCOS would last throughout life. Regular medications would regulate your menstrual cycle, but frequent check-up with your doctor is important, since various diseases can arise if PCOS goes out of hand.
A. Research suggests that PCOS does increase the risk of certain cancers, such as endometrial cancer. But largely, limited studies have been provided for the correlation of PCOS with ovarian and breast cancer, thereby suggesting an inconclusive correlation between the two.