IVF Babble

‘Little understood’ health condition which affects one in ten women

A condition which affects up to 10% of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 is under the spotlight this month in a targeted drive by campaigners to raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS

The condition is one of the most common causes of female infertility. Women and those assigned female at birth who have PCOS have a hormonal imbalance which can cause irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne and weight gain. One in three women affected will not have regular periods.

This means that women with PCOS often have difficulty conceiving, but living with the condition doesn’t mean they are unable to have a baby when they have the right support. 

Dr Rebecca Davies, a clinical fellow working at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM), said: “Although there is no known cure for PCOS, the good news is that with the right advice it can be managed, and symptoms minimised.

“Some women won’t realise they have PCOS until they find they can’t get pregnant, which is when they might come to us. And because it is so common, investigating whether a woman may have the condition is always one of the first steps we would recommend.

“A thorough history can be all that is required to make a diagnosis. An ultrasound scan will often show many ‘cysts’ around the edges of the ovaries. They are not truly cysts, as the name suggests, but follicles (tiny fluid-filled sacs that contain immature eggs). Unfortunately, the hormonal imbalance can prevent the normal monthly maturation and release of an egg, meaning conception is impossible.

“Once the condition is diagnosed, we can advise patients on steps they can take which may allow them to conceive naturally and have a healthy pregnancy. 

“It’s also important to learn how to manage your PCOS as a lifelong condition because otherwise it can lead to health problems in later life which may include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer.”

The chance of having PCOS is higher among women who are obese, or if there is a family history of the condition but it can affect anyone.

The goals and ideals of PCOS Awareness Month are to:

  • increase awareness of and education about PCOS among the general public, women, girls, and healthcare professionals;
  • improve diagnosis and treatment of the disorder;
  • disseminate information on diagnosis and treatment options;
  • improve quality of life and outcomes for women and girls with PCOS;
  • promote the need for further research, improved treatment and care options, and for a cure for PCOS;
  • acknowledge the struggles affecting all women and girls afflicted with PCOS;
  • urge medical researchers and healthcare professionals to advance their understanding of PCOS in order to research, diagnose, and provide assistance to women and girls with PCOS;
  • encourage countries and localities to make PCOS a public health priority.

More details are available here: www.pcosawarenessmonth.org  and here: www.verity-pcos.org.uk

Furtherinformation about the fertility services offered at BCRMare available at www.fertilitybristol.com 

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