Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that affects women. In this, a higher-than-regular production of the “male” hormone (androgen) disrupts the normal menstrual cycle with other manifestations like the growth of facial hair.
PCOS is one of the most common hormonal disorders. It can occur at almost any age of life (adolescence till postmenopause); however, it is more prevalent among women of reproductive age. Worldwide, it is estimated that 6-15% of reproductive-age women are suffering from PCOS. As per a review published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the prevalence of PCOS in India is estimated to be between 3.7% and 22.5%.
- Weight gain
- Increased hair growth (face, chest, back, thumb, toes, etc.)
- Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
- Irregular or complete stoppage of menstruation
- Evident hair fall from the head
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
Getting pregnant with PCOS
Sometimes the condition remains unnoticed until the woman tries to conceive. If a couple is trying to conceive for almost a year without success, then they should consult with a doctor. Women can consult a gynaecologist, who will provide a plan according to the underlying condition. If the underlying cause is PCOS, this plan would depend on the many associated health factors. One of the most common risk factors as well as complications of PCOS is obesity. A study published in the BMJ journal stated that more than 60% of women with PCOS were obese and required assisted reproductive technology to conceive. So while getting pregnant with PCOS is definitely not impossible, it can prove to be tricky in some cases.
PCOS affects ovulation (a monthly process of releasing egg by ovaries), as high androgen levels interfere with the development and release of the ovum (egg). An unhealthy egg has lower chances of getting fertilized.
Also, PCOS is associated with several pregnancy, labour and delivery-related risks such as:
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Gestational diabetes mellitus
- Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (preeclampsia)
- Preterm delivery
- Low Apgar score (baby requires medical attention)
- Increased size of the baby than the gestational age
How to overcome the risks and hurdles
Treatment of PCOS usually focuses on controlling symptoms and managing the condition to prevent complications. The treatment may vary from person to person; however, it is universally suggested to every PCOS patient to bring lifestyle modifications to tackle some of the symptoms like weight gain.
Lifestyle modifications are considered to be the first-line treatment. These modifications are proven to be effective in restoring menstrual cycles and ovulation. They also help in weight loss in patients with obesity and improve the hormonal imbalance.
Here are a few lifestyle modifications that could be practised:
- Engage in physical activity or exercise regularly
- Limit junk, fried, processed, sugary food items
- Add fibre-rich whole grains and vegetables to the diet
- Avoid smoking and drinking
- Take proper rest and adequate sleep
- Find ways to relieve stress
An active lifestyle will boost your metabolism to keep you healthy not only during pregnancy but also throughout your life.
Birth control pills are usually prescribed to treat PCOS, but it cannot be prescribed to those who are planning to conceive.
Clomiphene and metformin are prescribed to induce and regulate ovulation. Medicines containing a follicle-stimulating hormone and a luteinizing hormone are also given to maintain ovulation. Letrozole is also prescribed to promote ovulation.
Surgery is usually reserved for severe cases where ovulation could not be achieved after medicinal interventions. These are mostly laparoscopic surgeries (a conservative surgical approach). The various Laparoscopic ovarian surgeries include the following:
- Laser drilling
- Multiple biopsies
Finally, women with PCOS are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes and so it is advised to consult a gynaecologist when planning to conceive. Pregnancy with PCOS may need close surveillance during pregnancy, labour, delivery, and postpartum.
For more information, read our article on Pregnancy in PCOS.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.