Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disease of the ovaries. It is a chronic condition in which the ovaries develop tiny cysts just beneath the surface.
PCOS is one of the most common reasons why women visit the fertility clinic. The underlying cause is that the ovaries are unable to produce hormones in the correct proportions. Also, abnormally high levels of insulin may reduce egg quality.
What are the symptoms?
- Irregular or absent periods
- Increased amounts of unwanted/abnormal hair growth caused by raised levels of testosterone (male hormones)
- Fertility problems or recurrent miscarriage
- Rapid weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Skin problems, such as acne or oily skin
- Insulin insensitivity leading to raised blood sugar levels
Who is at risk?
- You are overweight or obese
- You are a smoker
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You have close female relatives with PCOS, which could suggest a genetic link
How is it treated?
- Weight loss will help regulate your periods and therefore boost your fertility. Slow and gentle weight loss, with a gradual change in the types of food you eat, is better than crash dieting. A high protein and fresh food diet is recommended.
- Balancing blood sugar levels is very important in treating PCOS. Chose foods that have a low glycaemic index, ie “slow releasing” carbohydrates. Carbonated sugar drinks and fruit juices are not recommended. Insulin sensitizing medication such as Metformin may be prescribed.
- Stress management is vitally important since the adrenal glands react to stressful situations by releasing more testosterone, which will then further upset the hormonal imbalance.
- Exercise regularly. Consult your fertility specialist for an exercise plan.