Getting diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or more briefly as PCOS, can be a depressing experience. It explains your symptoms, and may even gesture at a way of managing them, but the condition is not well understood and if your doctor doesn’t communicate it to you well, this may leave you with more questions than answers.
Many people know that getting pregnant with PCOS is difficult, but if you understand why it makes getting pregnant harder, you can find ways to even the odds in your favour.
The effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are driven by excesses of two key hormones: insulin, which controls how your body handles sugar and androgen, which is typically considered a male sex hormone, but is actually present in women’s bodies under normal circumstances in small amounts.
In PCOS, your body produces too much insulin, which in turn causes it to produce too much androgen. It also causes your body to begin to become resistant to the effects of insulin – this makes it less effective, and causes you to gain weight, as well as creating even more insulin in an attempt to compensate.
These two hormones affect your body to create all the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome: as well as the weight gain, there’s hirsutism – that is, unwanted hair growth – patches of skin pigmentation and discolouration, and the effects on your fertility. People with PCOS also report above average levels of depression and anxiety, though scientists aren’t sure if those are biologically linked to the causes of PCOS or a reaction to the chronic nature of the symptoms.
The excess androgen causes problems with your ovulation. The eggs maturing in your ovaries grow more slowly, meaning you don’t ovulate on schedule. If your ovulation is delayed, you don’t know when you’re going to be fertile, and if it’s skipped then you miss an opportunity to conceive!
While there are fertility drugs that can help you ovulate more regularly, these come with side affects you may wish to avoid, not least because of how they can impact your mood. If you want to try and stimulate your body to ovulate more regularly, you can try to lose some of the weight that PCOS causes it to gain. It’s not an easy task, but it can have dramatic effects on all the symptoms of the condition, including helping your body restart regular and spontaneous ovulation.
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