Fertility doctors and gynecologists in India, with many women welfare-oriented organizations, are trying harder and harder to spread awareness in India regarding PCOS/PCOD. In this state of pandemic and uncertainty, we will like to highlight that PCOS/PCOD is a widespread condition. No women facing the same shall feel alone and lost. Currently, on average, one in every ten women of child-bearing faces PCOS/PCOD. Most people are aware of current pandemic symptoms, but how many girls and women are aware of this widespread condition? This PCOS awareness month, let's share this knowledge.
What Will You Read In This Article?
- What is PCOS/PCOD
- Symptoms and causes of PCOS/PCOD
- Treatments and lifestyle to manage PCOS/PCOD
- Infertility And Pregnancy With PCOS/PCOD
What Is PCOS/PCOD
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn't be. As the name suggests, one is a set of symptoms (syndrome), while the other is the interruption of normal functions in the body (disease). The ovary starts producing more androgen and develops cysts too. The ovary fails to release an egg regularly or not at all. PCOS is generally diagnosed early when women are teenage girls. PCOD tends to occur during regular reproductive age. Both even have similar symptoms, causes, and treatments.
These two are widespread in the world apart from India. Still, many people lack the awareness and knowledge to understand and manage it. Apart from young girls and women, even men and women of other age shall be made aware of it as PCOS/PCOD can result in infertility in women, delay of menstrual periods or none at all, and many other side effects. Often due to this, many women feel depressed or are such topics are treated taboo.
Symptoms And Causes of PCOS/PCOD
PCOS and PCOD have almost similar symptoms and they are:
1. Irregular periods- As both results in issues in ovaries, so women are deemed to suffer from menstrual irregularities. The menstrual cycles will be infrequent, irregular, prolonged, or absent. The cycles might have too long gaps, or you might not get periods only. Other than this, usually, the periods you get while facing from PCOS/PCOD include heavy bleeding.
2. Excess androgen- The occurrence of PCOD or PCOS is always linked with excess androgen production. The male hormones in the woman's body will significantly rise. This will lead to many alterations in her body:
- Unusual body and facial hair growth (hirsutism)
- Stubborn acne
- Uncontrolled weight gain (especially around waist area)
- Pigmentation or darkening of the skin around the neck region
- Male-pattern baldness
Most of these are normal male hormone growths, while others, like headaches, are a reaction to an increased chemical change in the body.
3. Polycystic ovaries- As we mentioned above, they directly affect ovaries. This usually results in enlarged ovaries that contain follicles that surround the eggs. This is the main reason why they don't produce eggs properly and eventually cause menstrual issues. Ovaries get enlarged due to fluid-filled sacs called cysts. These cysts are results of follicles and tend to grow larger in/on the ovary.
These are the symptoms of PCOS and PCOD. In PCOS, the symptoms might be extra severe as it is a syndrome, and few of the symptoms, like ovarian cysts, are generally not present in PCOD. Apart from symptoms, their exact cause hasn't been identified yet. But the same has been linked with many theories, few of which have concrete scientific research and findings behind them:
4. Excess insulin- This is a hormone produced by the pancreas for allowing cells to use sugar. When the cells are resistant to insulin, then the blood sugar levels rise, and to counter that body might start producing more insulin. Now, excess insulin can also increase androgen production, leading to PCOS or PCOD.
Heredity- In various researches and surveys, it has been observed that women going through PCOS or PCOD tend to have a blood relation with some elderly women having or have had the same. So it can be passed on as well.
5. Excess androgen- Due to many unknown and natural reasons, sometimes, ovaries tend to produce more androgen. Over time this can lead to the onset of PCOD, rarely PCOS (if such secretion is too high).
Treatments And Lifestyle To Manage PCOS/PCOD
PCOS and PCOD can't be treated, but they can be managed to keep the excess side effects in check and sustain a pregnancy. PCOD is relatively simpler and easier to manage than PCOS. In some cases, it can be said to be cured, but there's always a chance of it developing back. The following are some treatments and lifestyle changes through which PCOS and PCOD can be managed.
1. Birth control pills- Doctors might suggest birth control pills, as they contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. When these hormones are introduced in your blood, they regulate your hormones and lowers the risk of endometrial cancer and correct the abnormal bleeding, excess hair growth, and acne. Instead of the pills, your doctor might suggest alternative options like a skin patch or vaginal ring containing estrogen and progestin.
2. Maintaining Your Weight- When dealing with PCOS/PCOD, the weight loss helps significantly. Through weight loss, you can control your insulin and androgen levels, which help restore the ovulation.
3. Limit carbohydrates- The low-fat and high-carbohydrate diet results in an increase in insulin levels. The complex carbohydrates also help in raising your blood sugar levels more slowly. The dietician and doctor will together design the perfect diet for you.
4. Be active- Exercise is known to help with almost every issue. It also helps in maintaining lower blood sugar levels. While going through PCOS, you can keep your blood sugar levels in checks, thus maintaining your diabetes.
5. Ovarian Drilling- In some cases, the doctor might suggest ovarian drilling. Due to excessive androgen, the ovary's layer might get thicker, and the doctor might need this laparoscopic method of ovarian drilling, in which through tiny incisions in the lower belly, tiny holes in the ovaries will be made. This is done to facilitate the release of an egg.
There are many other methods through which PCOS and PCOD can be managed, but they are best discussed with a fertility doctor or gynecologist.
Infertility And Pregnancy With PCOS/PCOD
For women with PCOD and PCOS, achieving pregnancy and conception is difficult, but that's why the world has gynecologists and fertility doctors. The lifestyle changes or treatments above will take some time but have great chances of getting you a success. If these don't work, then Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), or more are always at your disposal. This can treat conception problems. But sustaining pregnancy is another task. Lifestyle arrangements and care will have to be taken.
Apart from conception, PCOS/PCOD also results in stillbirths and miscarriages. During PCOD, problems during pregnancy can be ignored with healthy lifestyles, but in PCOS, there are more risks to pregnancy, and the stillbirths and miscarriages are more frequent. There are also high chances of an infant having some congenital disability or other issues. It is also to be noted that women with these issues have a limited ovarian capacity to produce healthy eggs. For their future family plans, the women can also preserve their eggs as early as they can.