Although the cause of PCOS is not completely understood, one of the major factors contributing to PCOS are higher than normal insulin levels, which can occur in woman that are overweight. In her book the pregnancy miracle Lisa Olsen, a qualified nutritionist guides you through the best foods to eat for a healthy and successful pregnancy and most important the foods to avoid
What exactly is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects how your ovaries function.
Normally, about five follicles will begin to mature during each menstrual cycle. At the time of ovulation a minimum of one follicle will release a mature egg . A polycystic ovary will begin to mature at least twice as many follicles as normal, most of these will enlarge and ripen but do not release an egg.
It is estimated that just under a third of women have polycystic ovaries. Some of these women will go on to develop PCOS, which concludes that they have other symptoms as well.
PCOS occurs when the hormonal system goes out of balance, making ovulation become rare or irregular. PCOS affects about seven per cent of women of child-bearing age. It appears to be more common in women of south Asian descent.
What causes PCOS?
Up until now the exact cause of the problem is as yet unknown but it’s thought to be caused by a combination of factors. As with many biological problems genetics play a role, it has been found that PCOS has a tendency to run in families. One of the major factors that is linked to PCOS is when higher than normal levels of the hormone insulin are present in your body.
It is now widely accepted by almost all health professionals that having higher levels of insulin, is one of the main factors to weight gain and these increased levels of insulin often go hand in hand with PCOS. Alternatively you may have greater levels due to the fact that your body has become less sensitive to the effects of insulin for some reason. This will cause your body to produce a greater amount insulin which regulates the sugar levels in your blood.
Increased levels of insulin causes an imbalance of the hormones that help maintain a smooth running menstrual cycle. A greater than needed level of luteinising hormone (LH) is produced compared with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
This in turn causes your follicles to produce an increased level of the male hormone testosterone over the female hormone oestrogen. An increased amount of testosterone is also produced by other glands in your body and to much testosterone prevents ovulation.
Having irregular or infrequent periods can be a sign of PCOS . Over two thirds of women who suffer from PCOS are also overweight or obese because a tendency to gain weight can often be part of the problem.
Symptoms can and often do vary wildly from mild to severe and not all women have the same symptoms. If you have polycystic ovaries you may have:
- irregular or non-existent periods because you’re ovulating irregularly or not at all
- difficulties getting pregnant
- an increase in hair growth around your your face, chest and belly
- depression and or mood swings
- weight gain
- thinning hair or hair loss on your head
- oily skin or acne
Are there any tests for PCOS?
PCOS is not easy to diagnose due to the fact that your symptoms may differ from person to person. Your symptoms can also come and go. At first your doctor will need to exclude any other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a thyroid problem. Your doctor diagnoses PCOS based on the following:
- Your medical and menstrual cycle history.
- Blood tests that will measure hormone levels. A test which looks for a hormone released by your egg follicles (AMH) is accurate for diagnosing PCOS.
- An ultrasound scan via your vagina to look for enlarged, polycystic ovaries.
How is PCOS treated?
There is unfortunately no cure for PCOS but you can get help to deal with your symptoms. Its possible that you may be able to control PCOS without medication.
If you are overweight, your first step will be to get advice from your doctor about healthy eating and exercise. Reaching and staying at a healthy BMI can help to balance your hormone levels and improve your symptoms. Exercise and a healthy diet can also help to combat mood swings caused by PCOS.
Make sure you inform your doctor if you have decided to try for a baby. The prescribed treatment for acne that can sometimes come with PCOS will not be suitable for you, as it would harm your baby if you conceived. Other treatments will depend on how severe your symptoms are and whether you want to have children. It is likely that you will be referred to a gynaecologist or a specialist in hormone disorders, called an endocrinologist.
Getting pregnant with PCOS.
If you want to get pregnant you may be offered the following treatments:
- One of the drugs that may be affered to you is the fertility drug clomifene, as it can stimulate ovulation. If this treament does not work then you may be offered an alternative drug called gonadotrophins. However, gonadotrophins are more likely to overstimulate your ovaries and cause you to have a multiple pregnancy.
- If you suffer from obesity or you are resistant to clomifene, then the diabetes drug metformin may help. It has the effect of increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin which makes your insulin and your testosterone levels fall. This helps your body to ovulate normally. Warning this is a controversial treatment and the benefits may not outweigh the risks. It has very unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
- Another option is surgery on your ovaries. A technique known as laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) has been know to help some woman to conceive if clomifene has not been successful for them. LOD is regraded as an effective, lower risk alternative to gonadotrophins.
LOD destroys the tissue on the ovaries that is producing testosterone. The effects may not last, but can improve the hormone imbalance long enough for you to conceive.
If you are overweight, your doctor is likely to ask you to reach a healthy BMI before trying fertility drugs or treatments. Even if you lose a little weight it can help your insulin levels get nearer to normal and get ovulation going again, if it has stopped.
Why not check out my full book review on the pregnancy miracle where you will discover that the author Lisa Olsen a qualified nutritionists guides you through reversing infertility with natural methods and without the need for drugs or expensive and evasive surgery.
Click here to your complete guide to Polycystic ovary syndrome treatments