Are you trying for a baby but have been unsuccessful so far? Perhaps it’s time to pause and think about the possible reasons that may be lurking behind those failed attempts—one of which could be PCOS.

The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) of America says that PCOS (or polycystic ovarian syndrome) is the most common cause of infertility in women and about five million women in the United States are affected by it.

PCOS & Infertility
PCOS is a hormonal condition in which a woman produces a surplus of androgens (or male hormones). Men normally have high levels of androgens that are responsible for bodily changes such as hair growth and increase in muscle mass.

However, when women secrete an excess of androgens, small fluid-like sacs are formed in the ovaries known as cysts. These cysts grow in the ovaries and begin interfering with the production of the egg and the menstrual cycle, thus causing infertility.

PCOS is a common problem in obese women. This is because obesity affects the body’s hormonal levels and leads to the conversion of the hormone estrogen to male androgen. The excessive androgen affects ovulation and decreases egg production, causing infertility.

Most women with PCOS are resistant to insulin due to which larger amounts of insulin are needed to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This affects the hormonal imbalance and puts a person at an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Improper use of intrauterine devices and misuse of contraceptive pills can also contribute to PCOS.

What Are The Main Symptoms Of PCOS?
While symptoms of PCOS may vary from women to women, here are some signs to look out for.

  • Infertility (inability to get pregnant) because of no ovulation.
  • Hirsutism (increased hair growth on face, chest, stomach and back)
  • Irregular, infrequent or absent menstrual periods. A menstrual cycle that occurs within 25 to 35 days with three to five days of proper bleeding is considered as normal. Anything before or after this period is considered an irregular cycle.
  • Hair thinning
  • Oily skin, followed by acne or dandruff
  • Weight gain or obesity (accumulation of fat, especially around the waist)
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Skin tags
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol

How To Manage It
While PCOS can’t be cured, it can be controlled to an extent by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, which would in turn improve your chances of conceiving.

1) Lifestyle Changes
Most women with PCOS are obese or overweight. Losing weight can be your first step to managing PCOS better. Even a 10 percent reduction in body weight could help regularize your period and improve your chances of fertility.

  • Limit your processed food intake and cut down on foods with added sugars.
  • Add more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats to your diet.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking.
  • Have green leafy vegetables, as they contain folic acid that boosts fertility in women.

2) Medication
If you have irregular periods, visit a gynecologist. The doctor would prescribe ovulation-inducing medicines. These are usually prescribed as a five-day course, which begins on the second day of your period. Certain contraceptive pills and anti-diabetic medicines may also be prescribed for the management of PCOS. These medicines could balance your insulin and hormonal levels and help you ovulate.

3) Surgery
Your doctor may perform a surgery known as ‘ovarian drilling’ that can increase your chances of ovulation. This surgery can decrease androgen levels and increase the chances of conception. A small cut is made above or below the navel and a small tool (laparascope) is inserted into the abdomen. The doctor punctures the ovary with a small needle carrying an electric current to destroy the damaged portion of the ovary.

4. Natural Remedies
Certain herbs such as cinnamon and fenugreek can be useful in regularizing your menstrual cycle and control hormonal imbalance. Read about them here.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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