Our nationally recognized team at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, led by Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Deborah Smith, offers outstanding personalized infertility treatment to people seeking to achieve their dream of becoming parents.
Read what this group of highly trained specialists wants you to know about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), your risk factors, and the treatments that can overcome the challenges of this common hormonal disorder.
PCOS is a relatively common hormonal disorder affecting about 30% of women struggling with abnormal or irregular menstrual cycles. This can have a significant impact on your ability to become pregnant.
Other health complications of PCOS include:
- Increased risk of gestational diabetes
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Elevated cholesterol
- Excess weight
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Sleep apnea
- Endometrial cancer
Women with PCOS are also at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders that can significantly affect their health and further complicate the effects of PCOS.
What hormonal imbalance does PCOS cause?
PCOS causes high levels of testosterone, which create imbalances in the female reproductive hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone, and anti-mullerian hormone.
This imbalance prevents your ovaries from regularly producing and releasing eggs (oocytes). As a result, if you have PCOS, you may have difficulty getting pregnant or experience female infertility related to anovulation (absence of ovulation).
PCOS generally begins in adolescence and causes various symptoms, including:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Excessive facial or body hair (hirsutism)
- Treatment-resistant acne
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Diabetes and prediabetes (insulin resistance)
- Thinning scalp hair (male pattern baldness)
- Dark skin patches in the groin, under breasts, and on the neck
The signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop with your first menstrual cycle and can last until menopause, if left untreated. Unfortunately, the risk of fatty liver disease, heart disease, and other health complications related to PCOS increase as you age.
What causes PCOS?
It’s not clear what causes the hormonal imbalances related to PCOS. Several factors can increase your risk, including:
- Family history of PCOS
- Excess blood insulin levels
- Low-grade inflammation, often associated with excess weight
- Excess androgen (male reproductive hormones) production
Rarely, abnormal growths or tumors on the adrenal glands or ovaries can cause excess androgen production that may mimic PCOS.
How do you treat PCOS?
At Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, PCOS treatment is based on the results of a thorough evaluation to rule out other causes of your symptoms. Dr. Smith may recommend various diagnostic studies such as ultrasound and lab tests to evaluate your ovary health and hormone levels.
If PCOS proves to be an issue, your treatment may include weight loss, increased exercise, and other healthy habits. Dr. Smith may, for instance, recommend a low carbohydrate diet to reduce insulin resistance and speed weight loss.
But most PCOS treatment aims to balance your hormone levels and can vary depending on your desire for pregnancy.
You may, for instance, benefit from combination birth control pills (progestin and estrogen) to regulate hormone levels, reduce acne outbreaks, and decrease excessive hair growth.
Women interested in pregnancy may respond to medication such as clomiphene to induce ovulation or a combination of clomiphene and metformin to normalize insulin levels and promote ovulation.
Schedule an evaluation at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, serving Parker and Englewood, Colorado, for more information about PCOS and its effects on your fertility. Call our office or request an appointment online.