Nearly 10% of women between the ages of 15 and 45 have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that causes menstrual irregularity, weight gain, and other symptoms. It’s often diagnosed when a woman is in her 20s or 30s, and it’s a leading cause of infertility.
PCOS affects ovulation, which is the time during your monthly menstrual cycle when your ovaries release an egg to be fertilized. If you’re trying to get pregnant, PCOS can make conceiving a challenge. But even if you’re not trying to have a baby, the condition can cause unpleasant symptoms that lower your quality of life.
Sanford White, MD, and our team at Abortion Care provide women of all ages with comprehensive reproductive care, including diagnosis and treatment for PCOS. Regular well-woman visits are the best way to maintain your health, but if you suspect you have PCOS or another condition, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment sooner.
Signs of PCOS
Hormones regulate your menstrual cycle, from ovulation to your monthly period. PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that can interrupt ovulation and make your periods irregular. The condition may also cause cysts, which are small fluid-filled sacs, to develop on your ovaries.
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Male-pattern hair growth on the face or body
- Thinning hair on your head
- Weight gain
Women with PCOS often have irregular or nonexistent periods. Some women don’t experience complications related to ovarian cysts, but for others, cysts can cause pelvic pain when they rupture.
Among the many symptoms that PCOS may cause, the most bothersome symptoms can be those that affect your appearance. Male-pattern hair growth on the face and body can be embarrassing, and about half of women with PCOS struggle to prevent unhealthy weight gain.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS isn’t well understood. It’s linked to high levels of androgens (male hormones) and insulin in the body, and genetics also play a role. Androgens contribute to male characteristics like body hair growth and baldness, while insulin affects metabolism and body weight.
Being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, and eating an unhealthy diet all contribute to high insulin levels. High insulin levels may trigger increased androgen production, which is thought to be a major cause of PCOS.
PCOS can occur with other chronic health conditions that are linked to obesity, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
PCOS is diagnosed with a physical exam and a review of your medical history, including your menstrual cycle history. We may recommend a pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, or a blood test to confirm your diagnosis.
There’s no cure for PCOS, but it can be managed to minimize symptoms and even improve your fertility. Your treatment is tailored to you, based on your symptoms and whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant.
Birth control pills can help balance hormones and regulate your menstrual cycles. The medication can stop excessive androgen production, which may relieve some PCOS symptoms. There are also a number of medications to help you ovulate if you want to boost your fertility.
If you’re overweight, implementing lifestyle changes to shed extra pounds can improve your symptoms. Achieving a healthy weight often decreases the side effects of PCOS, and it can make medication work better. If you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help you find a weight-loss diet and exercise plan that’s right for you.
Trust your health to our team at Abortion Care in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Call us at 732-408-6182 to schedule an appointment or send us a message online today.