What is PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a common metabolic disease that affects almost 1 in 20 women. It is a common condition that affects women in the reproductive age group. The faulty metabolic system results in irregular ovulation and a range of other symptoms. PCOS differs from just having a polycystic ovarian appearance, which is sometimes referred to as PCO. Almost one in five women may have polycystic ovaries or PCO whereas far fewer women have the metabolic syndrome called PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. It may be prevalent more in women of certain ethnicities compared to others.

What Causes PCOS?

The cause of PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is poorly understood. The metabolic disorder or PCO syndrome is thought to be caused by a combination of factors. The hormonal imbalance may result in a slight dominance of male hormone levels, such as testosterone. It also results in insulin resistance, which means that women with PCOS will be at higher risk of developing diabetes or heart disease during pregnancy or in later life. This hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance results in symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular ovulation or anovulation, irregular periods, acne, excess facial or body hair (hirsuitism) and an easy tendency to gain weight. It can be hereditary or may occur in the absence of any family history. Women with higher body mass index or BMI may experience PCOS like symptoms. On the other hand, being obese or finding it difficult to lose weight is also a feature of PCOS. In some women, the PCOS symptoms may spontaneously resolve on their own.

What is the Difference Between PCO and PCOS?

PCO and PCOS are commonly used without much distinction. However, PCO and PCOS differ in how they may affect you in the short and long term. Almost one in five women may have either one or both ovaries with polycystic ovarian or PCO like appearance. Just having a PCO like-appearance does not imply PCOS. Most of these women are healthy and may not experience the PCOS signs and symptoms. However, those women who have PCO like appearance of the ovaries and are also experiencing symptoms of metabolic disorder, such as anovulation or irregular periods or ovulation, acne, and excess facial hair or hirsuitism are more likely to have PCOS.

Signs & Symptoms of PCOS

There are a range of symptoms that women experience if suffering from PCOS. Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms. Common symptoms that women suffering from PCOS may have are irregular periods or no periods at all, difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate), excess hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks, weight gain, thinning hair and hair loss from the head and oily skin or acne.

Does PCOS Affect Fertility?

Does having PCOS mean you are infertile? PCOS results in absence or irregular ovulation. This means that the egg is not released every month and may cause difficulties if you are trying to conceiving. Almost a third of women experiencing difficulties with conceiving due to female factor may be due to irregular ovulation or anovulation. It is easy to restore regular ovulation with the help of fertility treatments such as ovulation induction or IVF.

PCOS & Fertility Treatment

What fertility treatments work best in women with PCOS? Is it hard to get pregnant with PCOS? Women with PCOS can conceive naturally or may need help with fertility treatments. If you are experiencing irregular ovulation or irregular periods, then your fertility specialist can help you in regulating ovulation with tablets. Restoring ovulation with the help of pills or injections can easily restore your chances of getting pregnant naturally. Most of these are highly successful in inducing ovulation. After a couple of months of ovulation induction fertility treatment, many women are able to conceive naturally with gentle help. Ovulation induction can be successfully achieved in some women using pills. Others may be prescribed gonadotrophin injections. Sometimes, ovulation induction may be combined with artificial insemination or IUI . If you have not conceived after a reasonable period of successful ovulation induction with or without artificial insemination, your fertility specialist may consider IVF or In vitro fertilisation.

PCOS and IVF

Does IVF work in women with PCOS? Women suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can be successfully treated with fertility or infertility treatments such as IVF. Your fertility specialist will recommend the most appropriate treatment option. For those who have been unsuccessful in getting pregnant despite regular ovulation for a reasonable period may benefit from IVF or In vitro fertilisation. IVF is just as successful in women with PCOS as those not suffering from PCOS. Our fertility specialists will discuss the best IVF treatments including mild IVF. Women having PCOS or those with PCO like appearance of one or both ovaries may be at higher risk of developing ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS). Our fertility specialists will take all necessary precautions to prevent OHSS and will carefully look after you through to the early pregnancy.

Does PCOS affect IVF treatment implantation?

Is IVF successful with PCOS? In vast majority of women, IVF is a successful fertility treatment. This is especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS, who have failed to conceive despite regular ovulation over a reasonable period of time. The IVF success rates in women are not significantly different when compared to women without PCOS. The IVF treatment success rate depends on a range of factors and there could be other causes of infertility that may influence your outcome other than PCOS. Hence, a thorough assessment and careful planning of fertility treatment is important to maximise your IVF treatment success whilst reducing your chances of getting OHSS.

Best ways to get pregnant with PCOS naturally?

What can I do to increase my fertility with PCOS? Irregular ovulation is the common cause for inability to conceive naturally in PCOS women. This happens due to hormonal imbalance. This can be easily corrected by maintaining a more ideal weight or body mass index (BMI). In some PCOS women, even a minimal weight loss of around five per cent may result in natural ovulation. This will restore your chances of conceiving naturally and help you avoid fertility treatments. If you find it difficult to lose weight, then you should seek help from your gynaecologist or fertility specialist. You may be given tablets to help you with weight management. When trying to conceive make sure you are taking prenatal vitamins, such as folic acid. You may also use ovulation predictor tests to know your period of peak fertility.

PCOS and pregnancy

What are the risks of being pregnant with PCOS? The vast majority of women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome are able to get pregnant naturally or with the help of various fertility or infertility treatments. Majority of pregnant women have a relatively straightforward pregnancy. Very few women may be at higher risk of miscarriage in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. When you are pregnant, it is important that you tell your midwife or gynaecologist about PCOS and any fertility treatment you may have received. Besides miscarriage, there may be other pregnancy-related problems that may occur and may not be related to polycystic ovarian syndrome. You may be at higher risk of developing diabetes later in pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes.

Does PCOS cause miscarriage?

A large proportion of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a straightforward pregnancy and birth. Depending on the severity of hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance, some women may be at higher risk of miscarriage or an early pregnancy loss. This tends to be in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

PCOS may naturally resolve without any treatment in some women. It is relatively easy to treat the PCOS symptoms that you may be experiencing, such as difficulty with conceiving, excess facial hair or acne.

How can I find a fertility clinic near me for PCOS fertility treatment?

There are various ways you can seek help for fertility treatment if you suffer from PCOS. You can speak to your GP about it. You can also self-refer to a private gynaecologist or fertility specialist for consultation and further treatment. When choosing a clinic or fertility specialist near you, it is important to enquire their experience in managing women with PCOS. You should also check whether it can offer a full range of fertility tests and treatment for women who have experienced a similar condition. If it offers IVF treatment, then you can know more about the IVF success rates and occurrence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Book your appointment or join our next open evening

At London IVF and Genetics Centre, we offer a wide range of detailed tests and fertility treatments for PCOS at our fertility and IVF clinics in London and Milton Keynes.

You can call our nearest clinic (Wimpole Street, London: 02075800207; Milton Keynes: 01908915151) or email enquiry@londonivfandgenetics.co.uk for more information or to book your appointment.

You can also join our next open evening in London to know more about your options and ways in which we can help.

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