Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) might not be something that you know much about, but you should. It affects millions of women in the UK. Plus, it’s one of the biggest causes of infertility.
This PCOS Awareness month we've shared everything you should know about the common condition, as there can be confusion about what is actually is, the signs you should look for and if/how the condition can be treated.
To ensure you have the right information, here to provide some clarity on the topic is fertility and PCOS specialist Dr. Israel Ortega from world leading clinic IVI Fertility:
What is PCOS?
Small cycsts grow on a woman's ovaries when she has PCOS which causes an imbalance in the hormones, which can affect periods and fertility. If you don't take care of PCOS effectively, it can later lead to serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
What Causes the Condition to Occur?
This is the big question because quite simply, scientists still aren't entirely sure. It is thought to be genetic, but there is little scientific evidence to support this.
What are the main Symptoms of PCOS?
The reason why it can be difficult to diagnose PCOS is because the symptoms can vary in every woman, and some might have them more severely than others.
Generally speaking, if you have PCOS you will have irregular periods, suffer from hair loss, struggle to get pregnant, gain weight, acne and have excessive hair all over your body.
What should you do if you think you may have PCOS?
It's important that you speak to your GP if you think you could have PCOS, they will be able to help diagnose you following a series of checks and ensure that you don't have any other conditions.
Some women might get an ultrasound or blood test as part of the diagnosis.
After a diagnosis is made, you're typically referred to a specialist who helps with managing symptoms and shares advice on the things you should do.
How is PCOS Treated?
Whilst there isn't a cure for PCOS, you can manage the symptoms by doing different things.
Weight loss might be best for some people, going on the pill might be a good option for those who have irregular periods.
If you're struggling to get pregnant, you might be best seeking out a fertility specialist who can help ensure there are no other problems stopping you from getting pregnant.
Long-term effects of PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome can over time, increase the risks of developing health problems later in life. PCOS is also a common cause of female infertility - with many women discovering the condition when trying to conceive.
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing:
- type 2 diabetes
- sleep apnoea
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- mood swings
Following a healthy and nutritious diet is a good way of reducing the risk of symptoms associated with the condition.
Finding the right diet is completely individual to you, and what might work for some might not necessarily work for others.
The glycaemic index is a way to monitor how quickly the blood glucose rises after eating carbohydrates.
Low GI foods ensure the right balance of your insulin levels, and because women with PCOS are often resistant to the effects of insulin these foods can help control the levels of testosterone that are usually increased with the rise of insulin levels. The increase of both insulin and testosterone upsets the natural hormone balance in the body, often causing symptoms of PCOS to flare up.
Foods to avoid
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas. Refined grained made with white flour, like white bread, pasta, bagels and white rice. Sugared cereals, sweetened grains like cereal bars and breakfast pastries should be avoided, as well as fizzy drinks, crisps, and cakes.
Foods to eat
Fresh fruit, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and carrots. Whole grains like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oats. High fibre cereals can help control insulin levels too.
There is no definitive test for PCOS. Instead, your symptoms are considered, blood pressure is checked and other causes are ruled out. PCOS is usually diagnosed when other causes are ruled out.