Understanding PCOS & navigating the issues that arise from it

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common, complex hormonal condition which affects 8-13% of women of reproductive age. Unfortunately, up to 70% of affected women go undiagnosed.

PCOS can be associated with problems such as irregular periods, obesity, reduced fertility, acne, excessive facial and body hair growth, and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There are reproductive, metabolic and emotional implications of PCOS, so it’s a complex condition of which there is no set cause. While there is also no cure, increasingly there is promising research and ways to treat the condition.


With PCOS Awareness Month this month (September 2021) we’ll release a series of articles examining the topics of:

  • PCOS and fertility
  • PCOS symptoms and treatments (x 2 articles)
  • PCOS and the effect it has on your mental health.

It is hoped these guides will help broaden people’s understanding of the condition which affects so many women in Australia.  Our Eve Health team of doctors, gynaecologists and clinicians offer a holistic approach to treating PCOS. Phone 07 3332 1999 to make a confidential appointment.

Read on to learn more about the effects PCOS has on fertility and wellbeing.


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Fertility

PCOS affects women of reproductive age. It is the leading cause of female infertility and many people don’t know they have it until they try to get pregnant.

And while sufferers can struggle to fall pregnant, it’s a misconception to think pregnancy isn’t going to happen at all.  Fortunately – through lifestyle changes or infertility treatment – most women with PCOS can become pregnant and have a healthy baby.


What are the effects on fertility and wellbeing?

As women with PCOS don’t ovulate monthly, it can be hard to fall pregnant.  Infertility along with the other symptoms of androgen excess – including abnormal hair growth, acne or weight gain – can have a negative overall effect on a woman’s mental health and wellbeing, sometimes causing anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately PCOS can have long term health consequences.  Women with PCOS have a higher association with obesity, gestational or type 2 diabetes as well as endometrial hyperplasia and metabolic syndrome.  It’s important to have a diagnosis early on to minimise these long term risks.


Key symptoms for diagnosis

Some key features that form a diagnosis of PCOS include having polycystic ovaries on an ultrasound scan, an irregular period and clinical or biochemical evidence (on blood test) of hyperandrogenism (high testosterone levels).


Treatment to improve fertility

Treatment includes a healthy lifestyle (such as healthy eating and exercising for 30 minutes a day), potential weight loss and targeted hormone therapy and medication. Monitoring ovulation and timing sexual intercourse around the ovulation window can also help increase fertility. Surgery may have a role in improving fertility.

The type of treatment will depend on what stage you are in life, and when you might be planning a pregnancy.

Regardless of where you are on your fertility journey, early management is key. If you suspect something is not right, please speak with one of our gynaecologists about your individual circumstances to find out more. With an early diagnosis the symptoms of PCOS can be treated  and the risks of complications can be reduced.

More information on possible treatment options can be found here: https://www.evehealth.com.au/articles/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/

For further support if you do have PCOS, the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association of Australia may be a helpful community: https://www.facebook.com/PCOSAustralia/


Sources & further reading:

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