What is Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome?

Beginning to take charge of your fertility means exploring all of the things that could be causing you hardship in attaining pregnancy. One of those things is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, PCOS for short.

An incredibly common affliction of American women, some doctors estimate up to 10% of all American women suffer from PCOS. Doctors estimate that as many as 50% of women who have PCOS may not even know they have it. PCOS is believed to be the most common cause for female infertility in the USA today.

Part of the difficulty of PCOS is that, despite that fact that is it incredibly common, very little is actually understood about it. Doctors aren’t 100% sure what causes it, and there is also no definitive diagnosis for the condition. Women considering diagnosis will need to subject themselves to a regiment of tests before a diagnosis is given, as the condition is considered one of “exclusion diagnosis,” meaning it is only diagnosed after other conditions have been ruled out.

What doctors do know is that PCOS is a hormonal disorder. Women without the condition will produce a follicle in her ovaries each month. At some point it will rupture to release a mature egg into the fallopian tube. However, in women living with PCOS, the follicle will never rupture or release an egg. This is due to the fact that, in these women, the body produces too much of the hormone Androgen. Instead of releasing the egg, these follicles will turn into cysts and remain inside of the ovary, going on to continue to produce their own Androgen, potentially fueling the ongoing persistence of the problem.

Common characteristics of the condition include missed or irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and development of body hair in inappropriate places. Additionally, the condition often masquerades as a pre-diabetic condition, since insulin is believed to play a role as well. Some doctors may suggest a high protein, low glycemic index diet as a primary treatment. Scientists believe that obesity contributes to insulin resistance, which can also boost Androgen levels in the boy. Researchers suggest that losing just 5% of your body weight can also significantly impact the severity of the condition.

If you suspect that you may have PCOS, it is very important to talk to your OBGYN. Apart from making fertility difficult, untreated PCOS may have other serious implications for your health as well. Complications include an increased risk for uterine cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

The good news is that, for many women with PCOS, a medical intervention to get their cycles back on track can offer positive strides towards fertility as well.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.