What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common endocrine condition in reproductive-aged women. It affects approximately 5-10% of young women and often leads to difficulty conceiving. Women with this condition can experience irregular periods, abnormal hair growth, acne, and can have ovaries containing multiple small cysts.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

According to the NHS, there are three main ways in which PCOS tends to manifest itself in women. These are:

  • Irregular or infrequent periods, meaning that your ovaries do not regularly release eggs
  • Higher-than-average production of androgen, a ‘male’ hormone that may cause physical symptoms such as excessive body hair
  • Polycystic ovaries, which are enlarged and contain many of the fluid-filled follicles (sacs) mentioned above

The presence of at least two of these signs may lead to a diagnosis of PCOS, but in addition, PCOS can also cause symptoms including weight gain, inappropriate hair distribution (unwanted hair growth, thinning hair or hair loss), and oily skin. PCOS may also be associated with other health problems such as type 2 diabetes in later life.

PCOS and infertility

PCOS negatively impacts fertility because women with the condition do not ovulate, or release an egg, each month due to an overproduction of estrogen by the ovaries. Because ovulation does not occur regularly, periods become irregular and increased levels of hormones such as testosterone can affect egg quality, inhibit ovulation, lead to insulin resistance, and increase the risk disorders such as gestational diabetes.

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, can trigger body changes that facilitate conception in women with PCOS. Your health care provider may recommend that you try weight loss and other lifestyle changes before trying any medications to see if fertility returns and pregnancy occurs naturally. Research shows that lifestyle changes can help restore ovulation and improve pregnancy rates among women with PCOS.Research shows that, among obese women with PCOS who experienced menstrual dysfunction, even losing small amounts of weight improved menstrual function and fertility.

Women who still have infrequent ovulation despite lifestyle modifications may require fertility medications to assist with the release of an egg from the ovary.  Typical initial therapy for patients with PCOS who do not ovulate and are trying to conceive includes administration of certain fertility medications. These agents are selective estrogen receptor modulators.

For some women with PCOS, fertility tablets do not result in ovulation or pregnancy, and they require fertility injections to release an egg. Fertility injections (Follistim®, Gonal-F®, Bravelle®, and Menopur®) contain the same hormone the brain releases to signal the ovary to produce eggs. Rather than producing one egg in a month, most women on fertility injections will produce two or more eggs. This treatment requires closer monitoring with transvaginal ultrasounds and several blood draws to determine the woman’s estradiol level, which is a hormone produced in the ovary. Fertility injections are also associated with an increased risk of multiple births.

In some instances, women with PCOS require in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve a healthy pregnancy. In this scenario, daily fertility injections are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, which are harvested in a minor procedure. The eggs are fertilized in the lab and then a resulting embryo (fertilized egg) is transferred into the woman’s uterus. Additional embryos can be frozen (cryopreserved) for future use.

Interested in learning more about surrogacy at Hellobaby Surrogacy? Check out our parents page for information about becoming a parent through surrogacy or our surrogate page to learn about becoming a surrogate! You can also follow along on our Facebook and Twitter as we share updates, resources, and client stories daily!

#hellobaby #gestational surrogacy #surrogacy process #surrogate faq  #surrogate requirements #egg donation #egg donation faq #egg donor requirements #ivf