September: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month

September is PCOS Awareness Month and at Medfem Fertility Clinic, we are passionate about raising awareness about this disease, its impact on women’s quality of life, its effect on fertility and the fact that effective treatments are readily available.

PCOS Awareness Month has been observed in September each year since it was first established in 2018 by the PCOS Challenge: The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association (NPCOSA) in the US. The objective is to raise awareness that will help improve the lives of those affected by PCOS, assist them to overcome their symptoms, as well as prevent and reduce their risks for life-threatening related conditions.

The Association notes that PCOS (PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome) is one of the most common human disorders and the most common endocrine (hormone) disorder. This genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder affects up to 15% of women in the US and more than 20% of women in some parts of the world. Pre-teens and teens can also develop PCOS.

Yet, despite affecting millions of women and having serious health consequences, PCOS is unknown to most people and a staggering 50% of the women living with PCOS are undiagnosed.
Awareness is crucial to ensure more women are diagnosed and have access to the treatments available.

What is PCOS and what causes it?

PCOS occurs when there is an abnormality with the secretion of the hormones FSH and LH. These hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain, and play an important role in the release of an egg from the ovary each month.

PCOS is a condition where eggs mature in the ovaries but are not released into the fallopian tubes – instead they remain in the ovaries and develop into cysts. This makes it impossible to successfully achieve a pregnancy.

The causes of PCOS are directly related to excessive stress, poor dietary habits and inadequate nutrient intake.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women. In fact, 80% of patients who come to Medfem Fertility Clinic with fertility problems have underlying PCOS.

You can read more about how PCOS affects fertility here

Unfortunately, infertility is not the only symptom. A rather long list of unpleasant symptoms includes irregular menstrual cycles, amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), weight gain, excessive hair growth, oily skin, acne and skin discoloration.

Further symptoms of PCOS include multiple ovarian cysts, with ovaries appearing polycystic on ultrasound, and elevated male hormones (androgens) which results in excess facial and body hair growth, with a male sexual hair distribution for example on the upper lip, breasts or below the navel. PCOS may also result in hair loss.

PCOS can also lead to lifelong complications, psychosocial disorders and other serious and life-threatening conditions, according to NPCOSA. Women with PCOS constitute the largest group of women at risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate more than 50% of women with PCOS will become diabetic or prediabtic before age 40. Some studies have shown women with PCOS to be at three times higher risk for endometrial cancer and may also be at increased risk for ovarian and breast cancer. Studies have also shown that suicide attempts are up to seven times more common in women with PCOS than other women due to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

PCOS Diagnosis

It is crucial that PCOS is properly and professionally diagnosed, because there are numerous other syndromes with similar symptoms and signs, but that require different treatments.
PCOS can be diagnosed through blood tests including FSH, LH and male hormones, androgen, DHEA and testosterone. Additional blood tests include insulin tests and ultrasound scans of the ovaries.

Treatments for PCOS

The good news is that there are very effective treatments available for those women suffering from PCOS.

For women who are not trying to conceive, various treatments are available which may alleviate the many symptoms and simultaneously reduce the risk of developing future systemic illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. These include lifestyle management, medication and even surgery, if required.

If you are trying to conceive, it is highly recommended that you rely on the medical expertise of fertility specialists to treat your PCOS and the fertility challenges it creates. PCOS is the most common reason for the lack of ovulation or inadequate development of the egg that causes infertility in women.

Nevertheless, it is not impossible to conceive with PCOS. There are a range of treatments available and at Medfem Fertility Clinic have extensive experience in successfully treating women suffering from PCOS.

Some of the cutting-edge PCOS treatments used at our world-class fertility clinic in Sandton, Johannesburg in South Africa are briefly described below.

Lifestyle management – in many women suffering from PCOS, losing just 10% of body weight and maintaining this weight loss can restore normal menstrual patterns. In addition, by correcting the diet, increasing physical activity and other lifestyle modifications, such as managing stress and taking Staminogro and Comegovite nutrients daily, abnormal insulin levels can be treated conservatively.

Medications – Abnormal insulin levels can also be treated with medication such as metformin (glucophage).

Ovulation induction – patients experiencing infertility often undergo ovulation induction achieved through various orally ingested medications or, if needed, injectable hormones, with excellent results.

Fertility medication should be prescribed by a fertility specialist able to provide ultrasonic monitoring of the ovarian response to the medication. This is because women with PCOS are very sensitive to these drugs, susceptible to higher order multiple pregnancies and even a ‘contraceptive effect’ caused by ongoing use.

Birth control pills are used to restore regular periods and to reduce the risks of developing abnormal uterine lining, as well as to reduce cosmetic effects of increased androgens, including acne and increased body hair.

Hormone injections containing FSH are very powerful and should only be administered by a specialist in fertility.

Ovarian surgery – Ovarian surgery involves a laparoscopy during which a few of the small follicles are drained with a small needle to help stimulate ovulation. This is a highly specialised procedure and only performed if medical treatment fails, because the ovaries can be damaged if the procedure is not done correctly.

Where to get PCOS treatment

The fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic have extensive experience in treating women suffering from PCOS. We have undertaken extensive research on PCOS throughout the years and are dedicated to providing excellence in cutting-edge care to women with the disorder.

If you believe that you may have PCOS, or if you have any questions about PCOS, or if you are ready to take your next step in treating PCOS, simply contact us to book an initial consultation by clicking here or phone us on +27 (11) 463 2244.

At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:

* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family

We look forward to meeting you!

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