Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by a hormonal imbalance; this creates problems with your ovaries and can heighten the chances of you becoming infertile (inability to fall pregnant.)
PCOS can either compromise the development of the egg or may cause it to not be released from the ovaries, meaning that it cannot be fertilised.
The exact cause of PCOS is currently unknown, but doctors have identified certain factors that may play a role:
- Too much insulin: Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. Its function is to allow cells to use sugar, which you obtain from the food you eat, for energy. If cells become resistant to insulin, your blood-sugar levels will rise, producing more insulin, which can consequently increase the production of androgen (male hormone). This can affect ovulation.
- Excess androgen: A higher-than-normal level of androgen (male hormone) can cause women to exhibit male characteristics such as facial hair, male-pattern baldness, and acne.
- Genetic: Research and studies have suggested that PCOS may be hereditary.
- Irregular menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year)
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Sleep apnoea
- Eating disorders
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Endometrial cancer
Diagnostic tests for polycystic ovary syndrome
Currently, there is no definitive diagnosis for PCOS but there are certain tests that a doctor can perform to check for signs of the disorder. He/she may recommend:
- A pelvic exam: He/she will physically check your vagina for masses, growths and any other types of abnormalities.
- Blood test: A blood test can measure hormone levels e.g. androgen as well as glucose levels, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol.
- Ultrasound: He/she will perform a transvaginal ultrasound. A device called a transducer is inserted into the vagina to check the ovaries as and thickness of the uterus lining.
There is no cure for PCOS and therefore the available treatment is used to manage the above-mentioned complications through medications and lifestyle changes.
Obesity is another contributing factor towards the chances you may contract PCOS; the symptoms were more severe. A doctor will more than likely recommend the following lifestyle changes:
- Increased physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
To increase your chances of ovulating, there are certain medications that may be recommended such as Clomiphene; Metformin or Letrozole. There are also medications that can be taken to reduce excessive hair growth, which include: Birth-control pills (contraception); Spironolactone and Eflornithine.
How Marie Stopes South Africa can help you
Marie Stopes South Africa’s comprehensive Women’s Wellness service offers health-management options such as blood pressure checking/monitoring and weight checks which, in conjunction with other treatments, will help manage PCOS symptoms.
We have 17 centres conveniently located throughout the country offering contraception methods for PCOS treatment. Please feel free to book an appointment with us to get more information about our sexual health services.