What even is PCOS?
At Trellis, we know that PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women. We also know that it’s not only challenging to diagnose, but it’s also challenging to manage and can take an emotional toll. For September, PCOS Awareness Month, we wanted to focus on this condition since it affects over five million people in the U.S.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is common among women in their reproductive years and shows up differently for each individual. Although unlike the name might suggest, having cysts on your ovaries is not the only part, or really even an essential part, to having this condition— so actually— the name is somewhat misleading. The condition essentially affects women’s hormone levels and causes them to produce higher amounts of male hormones that can have all sorts of effects on the body.
How does PCOS affect fertility?
PCOS plays a number on your hormones and overproduces estrogen. With too much estrogen, ovulation (egg releasing) doesn’t happen as regularly or sometimes at all and, naturally, you need your egg each month if you’re trying to conceive. PCOS also increases hormones like testosterone which can affect the quality of the egg or prevent ovulation altogether.
How do I know if I have PCOS?
Diagnosing PCOS is a process and involves a thorough conversation with your doctor. A proper diagnosis actually involves looking into your medical history as well as family history, physical exam, and several types of lab tests. Essentially, they aren’t looking for any of one of these tests to show that you do have PCOS, instead, they are systematically ruling out other possibilities. Although, if you meet the following three criteria, you will be diagnosed with PCOS:
- Irregular periods.
- Excess androgen.
- Polycystic ovaries.
Except here’s the thing, as we’ve mentioned before, every woman experiences PCOS differently through any variation of the above symptoms which makes it challenging to diagnose. Also, you yourself might not think to go to a doctor for some of the more visible signs like acne, hair loss, mood swings, hair growth in unwanted places, or weight gain because any one of those symptoms could be dismissed as “hormonal” or “genetic” or “treatable”. It’s more likely you’ll visit an esthetician, a dietitian, a personal trainer, or wax on a weekly basis to manage these symptoms. However, if you suspect you may have PCOS, it’s still important to make a visit to your doctor or endocrinologist to discuss the condition thoroughly.
If I have PCOS can I still freeze my eggs?
Yes! It is still possible to freeze eggs even with PCOS. During the egg freezing process, you take special hormone shots that actually stimulate egg production, it’s like giving your ovaries an assist. After egg retrieval and freezing, IVF is used to fertilize the eggs when you are ready to have a baby. Also, IVF is actually a procedure used for women with PCOS who have a hard time with natural conception or other methods. Which is kind of convenient because when you’re ready to have a baby, you’ll be able to skip stimulating eggs again and get right to thawing and utilization of the eggs, if they are viable.
Is there anything I can do if I have PCOS?
While there is no cure for PCOS, there are many ways to manage the symptoms. Meet with your doctor to explore the options that are best for. It’s a frustrating condition but remember there are five million (again, not five thousand, five MILLION) people who face the same thing.