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How Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Affects Fertility

A blog by Neway Fertility, December 9, 2014

One common hormonal disorder in women is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also called polycystic ovary syndrome. The condition takes its name from the appearance of the ovaries in many of the patients who develop it.

What Exactly is PCOS?

Between 10 and 20 percent of females of childbearing age suffer from PCOS, according to The condition affects up to 5 million U.S. women and can occur in girls as young as 11. While its cause remains unknown, experts think several factors could be culprits. Genetics is one of them.

Fertility clinics make a diagnosis of PCOS if a woman has two of the three characteristics noted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: an inability to release an egg from her ovaries on a monthly basis, elevated levels of male hormones and/or increased hair in the midline of the body, and ovaries that look polycystic when imaged with ultrasound.

Conditions commonly linked to PCOS are abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, acne, and cholesterol abnormalities. Around half of patients who visit our New York fertility clinic for this disorder are obese. Women who don’t ovulate regularly face an elevated risk of uterine cancer due to excess estrogen.

The PCOS Link to Infertility

Infertility is a frequent result of PCOS. The ovaries produce a woman’s eggs and contain small fluid-filled sacs known as follicles. As soon as an egg matures, the follicle ruptures and releases it to complete ovulation.

In polycystic ovarian syndrome patients, an ovary fails to produce all the hormones necessary for an egg to reach maturity. Follicles sometimes begin to grow and amass fluid. Ovulation fails to occur, and some follicles remain as cysts. Because there was no ovulation, the body does not produce progesterone, causing an irregular or absent menstrual cycle.

Treating PCOS

Women with this disorder seeking to get pregnant have several avenues of treatment. Our fertility clinic in NYC emphasizes natural therapy approaches and stresses the importance of an individualized treatment plan for each patient with PCOS.

One helpful step for many women is adopting a healthy diet that limits manufactured carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and cereal, according to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Substituting more whole-grain products, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables is a positive move. Even a 10 percent weight loss can help cycles become regular.

For some patients, fertility drugs such as clomiphene or gonadotropins are successful. If these medications don’t cause a response, laparoscopic surgery on an ovary is an additional option. A fertility specialist will also advise how in vitro fertilization might help a woman with PCOS to become pregnant.


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