September 1st, 2017
You’ve missed your period again and you’re pretty sure you’re not pregnant. It’s not the first time you’ve had an irregular period and you think it’s probably the stress that’s got your cycle out of sync, so you just brush it off. Sound familiar? Missing a period when you’re not pregnant is not as innocuous as it seems, in fact, it can be a sign of something more serious like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
What is PCOS?
PCOS causes ovaries to produce higher than normal levels of male hormones called androgens. It is one of the most common ovarian disorders and cause of infertility, affecting 5 to 15 per cent of Singaporean women of reproductive age. Despite this, there’s shockingly little we really know about PCOS. There isn’t even enough information to diagnose it properly as it manifests differently in everyone. For some women, the symptoms emerge right after they begin menstruating. Others never show any signs, only to receive the diagnosis when they are struggling to get pregnant.
Symptoms of PCOS
Aside from irregular periods, PCOS also causes a trio of annoying problems: unexplained weight gain, acne, and increased growth in facial or body hair thanks to the high levels of androgen. Think puberty 2.0.
The androgens also cause small little cysts to grow on your ovaries. While these cysts are not harmful, it affects your chances of getting pregnant as women who suffer from PCOS tend not to ovulate. If and when they do, the endometrium (lining of the uterus) may not be sufficient to sustain a pregnancy.
Despite the skewed odds, Dr Fong Yang, a Fertility Specialist of Virtus Fertility Centre, still remains optimistic about the chances of conceiving naturally with PCOS. “Often, with regular exercise, women can manage their weight, regulate hormones and restore regular periods,” he says.
Essentially, PCOS is caused by imbalanced hormones. The level of hormones is regulated by the endocrine system which involves various glands and organs including your ovaries.
“Maintaining a good balance of hormones boils down to making informed lifestyle choices,” says Dr Fong Yang. This includes having a healthy diet by consuming a variety of foods containing short, medium and long-chain fatty acids, which are key in the creation of hormones. Regular exercise is also required to help keep hormone levels in check as it helps to reduce inflammation.
While there is currently no cure for PCOS, there are treatment methods targeted at alleviating its individual symptoms. A common treatment for PCOS is Ovulation Induction (OI), which stimulates ovulation with medication to increase the chances of a spontaneous pregnancy.
To learn more about the role ovarian health plays in your fertility, check out the latest issue Sept/Oct issue of Parents World for our full article.
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