Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women. Since the symptoms can vary, a problem is often not apparent until trying to conceive. It is best to determine if you have PCOS early and start working on a treatment plan.
Identify Problems Early
It is in your best interest to have the discussion about PCOS with your gynecologist well before you plan to start a family. Since the symptoms of PCOS can vary dramatically, your gynecologist may want to perform a transvaginal ultrasound, just to be sure your ovaries are functioning normally. One of the hallmark symptoms of PCOS is having infrequent menstrual periods, such as only having a few cycles per year.
Having irregular periods is not a definitive sign and could be related to other gynecological problems. Some women with PCOS have a menstrual period every 28-35 days, which makes everything seem normal. Since their cycles are anovulatory, they may experience heavier bleeding with each cycle and shed many large clots. Other symptoms that may be cause for concern is central obesity or hyperpigmented areas of skin along the jawline or the back of the neck. These can be indicators of insulin resistance, which is part of PCOS.
Monitor Your Weight
Unfortunately, the metabolic issues related to PCOS may cause women to gain significant amounts of weight and make it harder to lose. This creates of vicious cycle of excess weight contributing to increase insulin resistance or even diabetes and more hormonal abnormalities. The best way to approach the weight issue is to make small changes in your diet. Carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, can be the most damaging to your weight and insulin regulation. Do not attempt fad diets that tell you to eliminate carbs completely. This often results in intense carb cravings that can be difficult to overcome. Start by reducing or eliminating the simple carbs and swapping them with foods low on the glycemic index, which are less likely to cause dramatic blood glucose spikes.
The first-line medical treatment for PCOS is typically metformin. This is a medication used in people with diabetes and may help with insulin regulation. Metformin should be used in conjunction with an overall strategy to moderate your eating habits while incorporating exercise. For some women, the combination of medication and lifestyle changes will help their ovulation return to normal. Once you are actually ready to start a family, there are other medication options if you are not ovulating. For example, your doctor may prescribe hormones that are designed to encourage your ovaries to produce mature eggs, instead of them turning into cysts.
PCOS is an increasingly common concern among women, but all hope is not lost if you want to start a family in the future. With early treatment, lifestyle modifications, and medical interventions, there is an increased likelihood of conceiving a child. For more information on follicle stimulating hormones, contact your doctor.