Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a metabolic disorder which disrupts your hormones.
PCOS often causes higher levels of sex hormones and insulin which can lead to the onset of irregular periods, acne weight gain and hirsutism (excess hair growth). People with PCOS sometimes have cysts on their ovaries which often present as dark coloured patches on an ultrasound although it is possible to have Polycystic ovaries (cysts on the ovaries) without having the syndrome. The signs of PCOS often present during late teens/early 20’s.
Your periods with PCOS:
Every menstrual cycle is a little bit different with some lasting 21 days and other being upto 40 days. You can calculate your mentsrual cycle by counting the first day of your bleed as day 1 and continuing to count each consecutive day until the day before your next bleed begins (the end of your cycle).
The first half of your cycle is called the follicular phase, begins on the first day of your period lasting approximately 14 days. During this phase your pituitary gland releases low levels of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates the follicles in your ovary to begin to mature eggs. This also triggers the production of the hormone estrogen (also known as oestrogen) which is responsible for thickening the lining of the womb in preparation for pregnancy. Once your estrogen levels are high enough your pituitary gland begins to produce large amounts of LH (Lutenizing Hormone) which is the hormone responsible for triggering ovulation. The follicle in the ovary which has matured the most then releases its egg into the fallopian tube and it begins its journey down towards the womb.
For people with PCOS your Lutenizing Hormone levels (LH) are significantly higher during the start of your cycle. Your LH levels are also significantly higher than your follicular stimulating hormones (FSH). As a result of this people with PCOS often experience irregular periods as the surge of LH required to trigger ovulation doesn’t occur. without this surge periods become irregular as ovulation fails to take place.
Your hormones with PCOS:
PCOS is casued by an imbalance in the hormones in your brain and ovaries. Higher levels of androgens are likely to interfere with or halt normal ovulation which occurs because of changes to levels of luteinizing hormone and gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which are both involved in the development and release of an egg halfway through your menstrual cycle. You might notice you have more PMS type symptoms throughout the month and are prone to sudden changes in mood, are more prone to anxiety, low mood and even depression. Research shows that those with PCOS are more likely to experience mental health disorders as the conditions adversely affects mental health and high levels of testosterone during pregnancy have been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and autism in children.
Your fertility with PCOS:
Most women with PCOS are able to get pregnant. The majority of people can be successfully treated with a short course of tablets taken at the beginning of each cycle for several cycles. If these are not successful, you might be offered injections or IVF treatment. There’s an increased risk of a multiple pregnancy (rarely more than twins) with these treatments. Long term, polycystic ovary syndrome can cause problems with fertility if you’re not having a period for a prolonged amount of time. It can also increase the risk of developing diabetes. If you’re experiencing long gaps between periods, the lining of the uterus can build up and some research studies suggest that this could potentially increase the risk of endometrial cancer so checking in with your GP to discuss options is extremely important.
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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be managed.
Your body with PCOS:
PCOS can present different symptoms for each person who is diagnosed with the syndrome but weight gain which is often difficult to shake off is a common symptom. Many people also experience hirsutism (male pattern hair growth). You might also be more aware of changes to your body at different points in your cycle such as bloating and water retention.