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Managing PCOS for Fertility and Overall Health

Managing PCOS for Fertility and Overall Health

If you're dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), understanding its implications for both your fertility and overall health is crucial! PCOS is a condition that affects many aspects of a person's life, from their menstrual cycle to their long-term health.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the basics of PCOS, its impact on fertility, associated medical conditions, and effective ways to manage and live well with this condition.

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a complex hormonal disorder that affects individuals of reproductive age. It is characterized by a combination of symptoms that vary from person to person. Diagnosis is usually made when a person meets two out of the following three criteria:

  1. Irregular or absent menstrual periods: Those with PCOS often experience fewer than eight menstrual periods per year.
  2. Clinical or laboratory evidence of excess male hormones: This can manifest as male pattern hair growth and acne. Laboratory tests may show elevated Free or Total Testosterone levels.
  3. Polycystic morphology of ovaries on transvaginal ultrasound: Ovaries may appear enlarged and contain multiple small follicles.

It's essential to receive a diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional such as an OB/GYN, fertility specialist, or medical endocrinologist.

Impact of PCOS on Fertility

One of the primary ways PCOS affects people is by disrupting normal ovulatory function. This disruption can make it challenging to conceive.

However, with the help of ovulation induction medications, ovulation can often be restored. Once ovulation is achieved, pregnancy rates for people with PCOS are similar to those of the fertile population without PCOS.

It's important to note that associated medical conditions, like obesity, can lower the success rates of fertility treatments due to increased inflammation.

Beyond Fertility: Long-Term Health Implications

PCOS can have broader implications for your long-term health, increasing the likelihood of various conditions:

  • Diabetes: A significant percentage of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Additionally, about 10% of women with PCOS develop diabetes.
  • High Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Elevated cholesterol levels raise the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
  • High Blood Pressure: PCOS increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can complicate pregnancies and lead to various pregnancy-related complications.
  • Obesity: Insulin resistance in PCOS can lead to weight gain, and obesity is a common issue among women with PCOS.
  • Uterine Cancer: Irregular menstrual cycles increase the risk of uterine cancer, as infrequent shedding of basal cells can lead to cell mutations over time.

Managing PCOS Effectively

While PCOS cannot be "cured" since it's influenced by genetics, it can be managed effectively. Here are some best practices to consider:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Achieving and maintaining a normal weight (BMI 20-25) can optimize ovulatory function and reduce male hormone levels, which helps manage symptoms like acne and male pattern hair growth.
  2. Adopt a Mediterranean Diet: Embrace a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains like wheat bread and pasta, and lean meats. This diet can help regulate hormones and manage insulin resistance.
  3. Engage in Regular Exercise: Consistent exercise, 30 minutes a day for five days a week, can reduce inflammation and contribute to sustainable weight loss.
  4. Regular Health Check-ups: Regularly assess insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and cholesterol levels through visits to your primary care physician.
  5. Track Menstrual Cycles: Monitor your menstrual cycles and seek medical evaluation if you experience irregular periods. Correctable hormonal issues might contribute to ovulation dysfunction.
  6. Consider Fertility Treatment: If you're trying to conceive (TTC) and haven't been successful, seek fertility treatment after 12 months if you're under 35, or after six months if you're 35 or older.

PCOS is a multifaceted condition that impacts fertility and long-term health. With the right strategies, such as maintaining a healthy weight, adopting a balanced diet, and seeking medical guidance, women with PCOS can effectively manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Remember, while this blog post provides valuable information, consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance tailored to your specific needs is always advisable. Contact ACRM today to speak with a fertility specialist.