May 31, 2012

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): What to Expect When You Are Not Expecting

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a lifetime affair. It manifests often in the late teens early twenties often causing irregular menstrual cycles and elevated androgen (male hormone) levels. This hyperandrogenemia can manifest in unrelenting acne, hair loss upon the head and development of hair on the face, chest and back. When a couple is trying to conceive, our efforts focus on reversing the abnormalities and restoring menstrual function. However, when reproductive needs are satisfied, PCOS remains.

Recently, investigators evaluated a cohort of women with PCOS over a twenty year period to study the natural progression of the condition as well as their risks for other diseases. The focus on the study was on both clinical and biochemical changes.

Most of these women were treated with oral contraceptive pills of varying duration. The contraceptive pills were used for either contraception or maintaining menstrual regularity. There was a significant increases in waist circumferences and overall body mass indices over women without PCOS. However, some of the markers associated with an increased risk of diabetes did not change when compared to the same control group. Androgen levels, the hormone that causes the male-pattern hair growth, acne and hair loss decreased over time. Those patients not taking birth control pills were more likely to have spontaneous return of regular menstrual cycles, most likely the result of less circulating male hormone.

From this long term study, it appears that the more drastic manifestations of PCOS predominate earlier in the reproductive years and taper as the women mature. Have more questions? Contact us today!


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Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D.

Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D. Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility