Female Infertility


PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

One of the leading causes of infertility in women is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common disorder that affects 5-10% of all women and nearly 30% of women with infertility. The symptoms vary between individuals and you may not recognize that you have the condition.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder that usually affects ovulation. Your ovaries often contain multiple small follicles, where eggs are just beginning to grow, and they may produce increased amounts of male hormones called androgens, which can interfere with egg maturation and prevent regular ovulation.
You may have PCOS if you have two of the following conditions:

  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • excessive facial and body hair, acne, or elevated androgen levels
  • polycystic appearance of the ovaries on ultrasound

Your doctor will need to do certain blood tests to make sure that there is not another hormone condition, such as thyroid disease or a problem with the pituitary or adrenal glands, which can cause similar symptoms.

Although polycystic ovarian syndrome was first identified more than seven decades ago, the cause of the condition is not yet known. Early treatment of PCOS can help to decrease long-term health risks such as: adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, endometrial cancer, and stroke.

Treatment usually includes lifestyle modifications such as eating a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise. Studies have shown that if you lose even five percent of your current weight, you can significantly improve your chance of conceiving. 

Medications can also be prescribed to help you ovulate such as Clomid, Femara or Gonadotropins, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. Metformin is another medication that is commonly prescribed, which may help you respond better to the fertility medications.

The good news is that PCOS is a very treatable cause of infertility, and you have a great chance for getting pregnant with the help of your doctor.

For More Information from ASRM on PCOS