PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a complex endocrine disorder that affects women in their reproductive years and is a common cause of infertility. It is the most common reproductive endocrine disorder in the world. What most women don’t know is that PCOS can also cause issues that extend well past menopause, so preventive treatment and lifestyle adjustments are key for long-term health.
PCOS stems from disordered hormone signaling due to insulin resistance and inflammation. It can lead to infertility, causing issues such as anovulation, poor egg quality, luteal phase defect, implantation failure, increased risk of miscarriage, as well as pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm labor. PCOS can also cause unwanted symptoms such as acne, hair growth, depression, insomnia, irregular periods, and weight gain.
Contrary to common belief, PCOS does not just affect women who are overweight. Lean women are at an increasing risk of developing PCOS, due to inflammation stemming from environmental factors and mild insulin dysregulation. Unfortunately, because of the misconceptions about body size, PCOS is often undetected in lean women. They may remain undiagnosed and try to conceive for years without success.
Once diagnosed, PCOS women may find that Western medical intervention is necessary. Treatments can include:
- Oral contraceptives (to regulate cycles, reduce acne, reduce hair growth/hair loss)
- Metformin (to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce acne, reduce hair growth)
- Fertility treatments (a wide array of options, including: medications to stimulate the ovaries with timed intercourse, injections to trigger ovulation, IUI, IVF)