Polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS) is a fairly common condition; a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts surrounding the outer edges. In young women, it generally can cause one of three problems:
- Menstrual cycle irregularity or heavy bleeding
- Issues falling pregnant
- An association with diabetes
- Excess hair growth and acne
It also can cause no problems at all.
It is both over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed.
PCOS is over-diagnosed when an ultrasound is suggestive of “polycystic ovaries” but someone has a regular, predictable cycle with no signs of any hormone imbalance.
It is under-diagnosed in public health settings probably for two reasons: women are not asked or women are too embarrassed to mention it.
In either case, misdiagnosis can cause a lot of anxiety and stress among women. In my doctoral thesis on the management of gestational diabetes, I looked at PCOS (amongst many other things) as a risk factor and was astonished at how low the recorded rates were in my hospital. Much lower than those recorded in various worldwide studies.
Underdiagnoses is more of a problem than over-diagnosis because there are many things a gynaecologist can do, even very simple things, to help with problems, reduce future risk or eliminate the condition entirely. A woman that goes undiagnosed may find their problems increasingly ignored, and that certain pains or issues don’t go away on their own.
One example of a simple treatment is cycle control, which refers to regulating and controlling the patient’s menstrual cycle. Cycle control is very easy but usually requires the use of hormones (either in tablets like the pill or with an intra-uterine device like the Mirena).
How does PCOS affect my pregnancy?
Patients with PCOS may find they struggle to get pregnant, which is why pre-pregnancy planning is very important. Many women do not want to be labelled with “infertility” or “subfertility” and some early, simple consultations and/or treatments can actually maximise the chances of a natural pregnancy. We advise that, if you are diagnosed with PCOS or feel you may be suffering from symptoms of PCOS, you speak to a specialist as soon as possible about steps to take during pregnancy and child birth.
To further discuss PCOS and pregnancy, contact us today and we can arrange a suitable time.