I created this page because outside of the community of TTC, many people have never heard of PCOS. So this will serve as a quick overview.
***Disclosure: I am by no means a medical doctor. I have a small background in medical education, but it is very generalized. Since my diagnosis, I have been diligently researching PCOS and have read several books on PCOS and fertility and trying to conceive. Please see sources at the bottom of this entry, and if you are interested in learning more there are some great internet resources as well as literature on the topic.***
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s an endocrine disorder characterized by an imbalance in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, and elevated androgens (male hormones, like testosterone). This imbalance can disrupt the menstrual cycle’s normal patterns, and sometimes lead to ovarian cysts and problems with ovulation. (Despite the name, polycystic ovarian syndrome does not always immediately equal ovarian cysts. In some cases, such as my own, the ovaries are enlarged and this is considered a characteristic of PCOS).
You can’t really put it in a nutshell, but that is kind of a quick overview.
How does PCOS affect fertility?
Because of the imbalance in hormones, in some cases it can prevent the ovaries from producing a mature follicle and subsequently releasing an egg. Follicles may develop, but they often cannot mature enough to release an egg and that follicle then becomes a small cyst on the ovaries (hence the name). Also, low progesterone levels can sometimes prevent a pregnancy from surviving in the early stages and often women with PCOS will be prescribed a supplement to prevent miscarriage.
What are the symptoms?
Not all women have immediate symptoms, but there are some notable ones that many may experience. They can include:
Hirsuitism – This is basically a fancy term for male pattern hair growth, such as the upper lip, chin, and chest.
Weight issues – Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and have trouble losing weight.
Acne – Thanks so much, male hormones.
Amenorrhea – That is, the absence of menstruation. Often women with PCOS will only get a few periods a year.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
How is PCOS treated?
I have too many sources to notate at this point, since some of the information is a combination of my personal knowledge and research over the past year, but this site was used to help refresh some of the facts and referenced often when answering the factual questions. The PCOS Workbook from the next section was one of the many books I have read, that could be considered a source as well.
Want more information?
Soulcysters.com is an online forum and community for women in all walks of life with PCOS. From those trying to get pregnant to just managing their weight, or looking for support– this is the place to connect.
The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health by Angela Grassi and Stephanie B. Mattei: I purchased my copy on Amazon, but you may be able to find it in bookstores as well. It covers a broad array of issues for women with PCOS from depression to weight management, and has a “workbook” feel at times where you can answer questions, record blood work results, etc.