What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder of the endocrine system which causes miscommunication between the brain and a woman’s ovaries.  The result is often elevated androgen levels, ovulatory dysfunction, and multiple cysts on the ovaries.  In order for a woman to be diagnosed with PCOS, she must meet two of these three criteria per the Rotterdam scale.  Women with PCOS are also likely to have higher levels of insulin production, irregular periods, thyroid imbalance, male pattern hair growth, and obesity.  However, some women with PCOS do not exhibit any symptoms.

PCOS effects as much as 10% of women of reproductive age.  It is the most common hormonal disorder in women and is a leading cause of infertility.

During a typical menstrual cycle, follicle stimulating hormone promotes follicle growth as luteinizing hormone helps eggs mature and prepare for ovulation.  The follicle ruptures and an egg is ovulated where is then goes on to become fertilized, implant, and become a pregnancy.  Women with PCOS do not experience the normal process of egg maturation and luteinizing hormone surge, therefore they may not ovulate.  These follicles build up and become small cysts within the ovaries.  If an egg is not ovulated, a woman with PCOS will have irregular or absent menses.

Though the cause of PCOS is unknown, there is evidence to suggest a genetic link passed from mothers to their daughters.  There is also high incidence of insulin resistance in women with PCOS, though not every woman with PCOS experiences this.  Elevated insulin levels could lead to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Because the severity and symptoms of PCOS vary, women with PCOS may be able to conceive naturally or they may require some assistance from a fertility doctor.  Fertility treatments for PCOS range from fertility drugs like Clomid to intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).  For more information on fertility doctors in your area specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of PCOS, contact Fertility Authority’s Patient Care Advocates by emailing carecoordinator@fertilityauthority.com.