Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects more people than you might think. The NHS estimates it could affect as many as 20% of women in the UK, but a true figure is hard to be sure about, because so many people are undiagnosed or don’t show symptoms. It can feel depressing and isolating to be diagnosed with PCOS, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone, and that this is not the end of your pregnancy journey. It represents a challenge and one that it’s more than possible to overcome.
Today we’re looking at how PCOS affects you, so you can start to make plans about how to fight back!
PCOS and pregnancy are inextricably linked. PCOS shows its most dramatic effects in your ovaries, where it can restrict ovulation by prevents eggs from maturing. This results in lots of immature eggs remaining in your ovaries in the small sacs they develop in. These ‘cysts’ are what give Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’ its name.
If you don’t ovulate, there’s no egg for sperm to fertilise, so you can’t get pregnant in that cycle. This doesn’t happen every time, but the hormone disruption PCOS means ovulation is often delayed or prevented altogether. This means you simply have fewer chances to get pregnant in your lifetime! It makes it all the more important to recognise the signs when you are ovulating, and make sure you’re taking advantage of them when you’re trying for a baby.
Measuring your basal body temperature, and checking your cervical mucus are a good way to determine when you’re ovulating – and more importantly when you’re due to ovulate. The more notice you have the better, and these methods don’t rely on measuring hormones that PCOS is distorting anyway.
PCOS is a wide ranging condition – it effects almost all areas of your health. It can cause weight gain and hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) in addition to its reproductive effects. It’s also known to be associated with increased reports of depression and anxiety, though it’s not currently known if those are biologically linked to the condition.
Tackling some of these symptoms can help relieve others: PCOS is driven by insulin overproduction, so if you’re able to lose some of the weight it causes you to gain, with exercise and a controlled diet, it can help your body absorb insulin more normally and prevent it being overproduced.
However you want to tackle PCOS you should make your decisions with input from your doctor, to make sure you’ve got the best support!