Polycystic ovary: what to do?

February 7, 2024

Polycystic ovary syndrome (frequently called PCOS) is a condition that affects between 5% and 10% of the female population.
Specifically, it is a disorder affecting the female genital system, specifically the ovaries and in some also the adrenal glands.

In women with polycystic ovary syndrome, more androgens are produced than normal; these hormones, typical of the male sex are produced to a lesser extent in women, but when they occur in excess they tend to interfere with the ovulation process.

Women with PCOS have unmatured follicles that tend to clump together, forming ovarian cysts that will impede and stop the proper path of the ovum.

The fertilization process will then become difficult, which is why polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common cause of female infertility.
The correlation between polycystic ovary and pregnancy is now established by a great many medical studies in the field.

The symptoms of polycystic ovary

Many women discover that they are prone to PCOS only after repeated attempts to become pregnant and during the search for pregnancy.

Many women live with this condition without almost realizing it.

The main symptoms of those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome are the presence of major menstrual irregularities, such as the complete absence of the cycle i.e. amenorrhea, or oligomenorrhea, which is characterized by a cycle that appears very rarely and mildly, sometimes almost imperceptibly.

Secondary symptoms that may arise are due to the high relevance of male hormones, which can lead to high hirsutism, that is, excessive hair growth on the face, chest, and belly area, as well as on the fingers and toes.
In addition, typical male pattern baldness or alopecia may occur, and acne and oily skin accompanied by dandruff on the scalp may appear.

Other noteworthy symptoms to note are a continuous sense of pelvic pain, even in performing the most common actions, and the presence of raised patches on the skin, usually tending to a dark brown or black color.

What happens if polycystic ovary is not treated?

Polycystic ovary, if not properly treated, can lead to several issues related to the syndrome over time.

For example, affected women tend to experience metabolic syndrome, as the body fails to regulate insulin levels adequately; in fact, this syndrome is also called a precursor to diabetes, and in the case of pregnancy it can increase the risk of the onset of gestational diabetes, with associated risks.

For this reason, additional examinations are carried out in pregnancy.
In addition, the cardiovascular system will be subjected to higher levels of stress, with an increased risk of heart disease and hypertension.
Also regarding the circulation, triglyceride values will be raised and at the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL, i.e., the good cholesterol that contributes to proper oxygenation of muscles and tissues) levels will be lowered.

How do we solve the problem of polycystic ovary?

To solve and recover from this syndrome, it is undoubtedly advisable to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and constant physical activity, trying to limit sedentariness.

As for medication, on the other hand, the use of the birth control pill (based on estrogen and progestin) is the most widely used and helps limit the risk of endometrial cancer and keep abnormal bleeding at bay.
Alternatives to the pill are the patch or vaginal ring.

Alternatively, doctors may prescribe progesterone and metformin, which succeed in reducing cancer risks and regularizing the cycle while keeping diabetes at bay.

In all these cases, it is good to remember that polycystic ovary syndrome is not synonymous with infertility.

Many women have lived with PCOS and managed to achieve multiple pregnancies, so taking medication is generally used as an extreme remedy in favor of the suggestion to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

Conversely, it would be advisable to limit sausages, cheeses, fried foods, and sugar drinks.

What polycystic ovary examinations?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as other problems such as microcystic ovary or multi-follicular ovary, can be detected by a gynecologic examination and related ultrasound.

The doctor will perform a physical examination to assess the presence of symptoms such as excessive hairiness, pelvic and genital organs, a targeted ultrasound, and specific blood tests to check levels related to possible PCOS.

Based on these examinations, the doctor will be able to clearly discriminate the condition and suggest the correct treatment with the administration of birth control pills or progesterone.

A natural solution that is increasingly being considered by doctors in recent periods is inositol, which is a substance effective in reducing all symptoms of the syndrome, including difficulty in getting pregnant.

Can I get pregnant with PCOS?

As mentioned above, it is possible to get pregnant with polycystic ovary: many women have had multiple pregnancies despite having this syndrome.
However, it must be stated that the most frequent cause of female infertility is precisely polycystic ovary: recent studies have ascertained that almost 10% of women are subject to it and the vast majority of these have (or have had) problems in the search for pregnancy.

In any case in this day and age, through assisted fertilization and artificial insemination it is possible to circumvent PCOS, fertilization in fact can be one of the viable ways to get pregnant despite the polycystic ovary.

We are with you.

We at Parentalife are by your side and support you throughout the parenting journey through our courses such as MAMISleep and our counseling. You will never be alone, we are with you.

SOURCES

Kamalanathan S, Sahoo JP, Sathyapalan T. Pregnancy in polycystic ovary syndrome. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jan;17(1):37-43. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.107830. PMID: 23776851; PMCID: PMC3659904.

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.