September 23, 2014

The Real Facts About PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Facts | Infertility Stress

September is PCOS Awareness Month! In order to learn more about this important condition, let’s discuss some common assumptions about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Here are the real facts about PCOS:

Fact or fiction?

PCOS is a common condition: FACT

PCOS affects 7-10% of women. The symptoms of PCOS usually present at puberty, but it may take many years before patients are correctly diagnosed. Diagnosing PCOS can be tricky because not all women will have the same symptoms.

A woman with a history of painful ovarian cysts probably has PCOS: FICTION

To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman must have 2 of 3 possible issues: irregular periods, high levels of androgen hormones (such as testosterone), and ovaries that contain multiple very small cysts. The cysts associated with PCOS are very small (<10 mm) and do not cause pain. Painful ovarian cysts are usually much larger and are not associated with PCOS.

All women with PCOS are overweight: FICTION

While many women with PCOS struggle with their weight, 20% of women with PCOS are not overweight at all. PCOS is, however, associated with a number of medical problems, including: endometrial cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Living a healthy lifestyle is very important for patients with PCOS. We recommend that you seek care with a physician with particular expertise in managing this condition.

PCOS is a common cause of infertility: FACT

PCOS is associated with infertility. Most commonly, women with PCOS have trouble conceiving because they may not ovulate (release a mature egg) every month. Nevertheless, some women with PCOS may conceive on their own.   For overweight women with PCOS, even a small amount of weight loss (5-10% of their overall weight) may help them to begin ovulating on their own.

Clomid is the most effective pill to help a woman with PCOS achieve a pregnancy: FICTION

Historically, clomiphene citrate (Clomid) was thought to be the best pill to induce ovulation in patients with PCOS. Recently, however, a large clinical trial demonstrated that a medication called letrozole is more effective than clomid at helping women with PCOS to have successful pregnancies (Legro et al. Letrozole versus clomiphene for infertility in the polycystic ovary syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2014 Jul 10;371(2):119-29). As a result of this study, we will likely see a dramatic shift in the way infertile patients with PCOS are cared for.

Our physicians at Fertility Centers of New England have an extensive breadth of expertise in managing PCOS. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or have further questions about the best treatment path for you, please contact us today!

 

 

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Beth Plante, M.D. Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility