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Polycystic ovary syndrome - PCOS - symptoms, causes, treatment

What is PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)?

PCOS is a condition that disrupts a woman’s hormonal equilibrium.

Women with PCOS create far more male hormones than the average woman. This hormonal imbalance results in missing periods and makes pregnancy more challenging.

PCOS also results in excessive hair growth and baldness on the face and torso. Additionally, it can exacerbate chronic health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease.

Birth control pills and diabetes drugs (which treat insulin resistance, a characteristic of PCOS) can assist in rebalancing the hormones and alleviating symptoms.

The following section discusses the different causes of PCOS and its prospective repercussions on a woman’s body.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age (15 to 44). PCOS affects between 2.2 and 26.7 percent of women in this age group.

Many women are unaware they have PCOS. According to one study, up to 70% of women with PCOS go untreated.

PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s ovaries, the reproductive organs that generate estrogen, and progesterone – the hormones that control the menstrual cycle. Additionally, the ovaries create a trace quantity of male hormones known as androgens.

  1. The ovaries produce eggs which are fertilized by the sperm of a man. Ovulation is the monthly release of an egg.
  2. The pituitary gland’s follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) regulate ovulation.
  3. FSH stimulates the ovary to create a follicle – an egg-containing sac – while LH causes the ovary to release a mature egg.

 

PCOS is a “disease” or collection of symptoms affecting the ovaries and ovulation. Its three primary traits are as follows:

  • ovarian cysts
  • male hormones in excess
  • Periods that are irregular or absent

What is the cause?

Elevated male hormone production

Physicians are unsure about the cause of PCOS. The reason is that elevated male hormone levels inhibit the ovaries from releasing regular amounts of hormones and developing eggs.

Insulin sensitivity

Up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means their cells are unable to adequately utilize insulin.

When cells are unable to utilize insulin efficiently, the body’s insulin requirement increases. To compensate, the pancreas generates additional insulin. The extra insulin stimulates the production of male hormones by the ovaries.

Obesity is a major contributor to insulin resistance. Obesity and insulin resistance both contribute to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

what is pcos

Inflammation

Women with PCOS frequently have elevated inflammation levels in their bodies. Additionally, obesity may contribute to inflammation. Excessive inflammation has been associated with increased androgen levels in studies

 

Androgen production

Excessive androgen production is connected with genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

Genes

According to studies, PCOS is an inherited condition (5).
Numerous genes, not just one, are likely to play a role in the illness (6)

PCOS symptoms that are frequently encountered

For some women, the earliest signs of premenstrual syndrome manifest during their first menstruation. Others discover they have PCOS only after gaining a significant amount of weight or having difficulty conceiving. The most prevalent symptoms of PCOS are as follows:

Irregular periods. 

Failure to ovulate results in the uterine lining not shedding each month. Certain women with PCOS have fewer than eight menstrual cycles per year or none at all

Significant bleeding.

Because the uterine lining accumulates over a longer length of time, periods may be heavier than usual.

Progression of hair

Over 70% of women who have this illness experience hair growth on their face and body, including their back, belly, and breasts (11). Hirsutism is a term that refers to excessive hair growth.

Acne.

Male hormones can cause the skin to become more oily than usual, resulting in outbreaks on the face, chest, and upper back.

Gain in weight.

Up to 80% of women with PCOS are fat or overweight 

Male baldness.

Scalp hair thins and may fall off.

Skin discoloration.

Dark patches of skin may appear in bodily folds such as the neck, groin, and under the breasts.

Headaches.

 In certain women, hormonal fluctuations might result in headaches.

Summary

PCOS can cause disruptions in the menstrual cycle, resulting in fewer menstrual cycles. Other signs of the illness include acne, hair growth, weight gain, and dark skin spots.

The effects of PCOS on the body

Increased androgen levels can harm fertility and other health problems.

Infertility – To conceive, you must ovulate. Women who do not ovulate regularly produce less viable eggs. PCOS is one of the most prevalent reasons for female infertility 

Syndrome metabolico – Up to 80% of women with PCOS are fat or overweight. Obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) both increase the risk of:

  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Low “good” HDL cholesterol levels
  • High HDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol).

These factors, taken together, are referred to as metabolic syndrome, and they raise the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Apnea during sleep

This disorder results in recurrent pauses in breathing during the night, interfering with sleep. Sleep apnea is more prevalent in obese women, particularly those who also have PCOS. Sleep apnea is five to ten times more likely to occur in obese women with PCOS than in women without PCOS.

Cancer of the Cervix

The uterine lining is lost during ovulation. If you do not ovulate on a monthly basis, the lining can accumulate. A dense endometrium may raise your risk of developing uterine cancer 

pcos details

Depression

Hormonal fluctuations and symptoms such as excessive hair growth might have a detrimental effect on your mood. At some time, many persons with PCOS develop despair and anxiety (16).

 

Hormonal imbalances can have a variety of adverse effects on a woman’s health. pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Look for blockage of the fallopian tubes or for other causes of Infertility, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, endometrial cancer, and depression are all risks associated with PCOS.

  • How is polycystic ovary syndrome diagnosed?

    Typically, doctors diagnose PCOS in women who exhibit at least two of the following three symptoms

    • Increased amounts of androgen
    • Irregular menstrual periods
    • Ovary cysts
    Doctor Performing Ultrasound Scanning Her Pregnant Patient (1)

    Additionally, your doctor should inquire about acne, facial and body hair development, and weight gain.

    A pelvic exam is used to detect abnormalities with the ovaries or other reproductive organs. The doctor inserts a gloved hand into your vagina and checks for malignancies in your ovaries or uterus during this exam.

    Blood tests are performed to see if your male hormone levels are abnormally high.

    In addition, your cholesterol, insulin, and triglyceride levels may be examined to assess your risk of developing heart disease or diabetes-related complications.

    An ultrasound examines the ovary and uterus for abnormal follicles and other ovarian and uterine disorders using sound waves.

    PCOS is diagnosed when women exhibit at least two of the three primary symptoms: elevated androgen levels, irregular menstrual cycles, and ovarian cysts. Pelvic examination, blood testing, and ultrasound can all be used to confirm the diagnosis.

    Pregnancy and polycystic ovarian syndrome

    PCOS affects the natural menstrual cycle and makes pregnancy difficult. 70% to 80% of women with PCOS experience reproductive issues. Additionally, this illness can raise the chance of pregnancy problems.

    Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without PCOS to deliver birth prematurely. Additionally, they have an increased risk of miscarriage, hypertension, and gestational diabetes (19).

    On the other hand, women with PCOS can become pregnant with the aid of fertility drugs that enhance ovulation. Weight loss and blood sugar control can increase the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy.

    PCOS can complicate pregnancy and increase the likelihood of problems and miscarriage. Weight loss and other treatments can help you have a healthier pregnancy.

    tips to increase your chances of becoming pregnant

    What effect does my diet have on PCOS?

    Insulin levels in women with PCOS are frequently higher than average. Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas produces. It aids the cells of the body in converting sugar (glucose) to energy.

    Blood sugar levels can rise if you do not create enough insulin. This can also occur if you are insulin resistant, which indicates that your body is unable to efficiently use the insulin you make.

    If you are insulin resistant, your body may attempt to secrete excessive quantities of insulin in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Excess insulin can stimulate the production of androgens, such as testosterone, by the ovaries.

    Insulin resistance can also be caused by a body mass index that is more than the average. Insulin resistance can make weight loss difficult, which is why women with PCOS frequently experience this issue.

    A diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as starchy and sugary foods, might exacerbate insulin resistance, hence complicating weight loss.

    healthy food

    Which foods do I need to incorporate into my diet?

    Fiber-rich foods can aid in the battle against insulin resistance by slowing digestion and lowering the effect of blood sugar. This can be beneficial for those who suffer from PCOS.

    High-fiber foods include the following:

    • Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables.
    • Vegetables with green colors, such as red lettuce and arugula.
    • Peppers, both green and red
    • Lentils with beans
    • Almonds
    • Berries
    • Potatoes suckers
    • Squash in the winter
    • Pumpkin
    While low-fat protein sources such as tofu, chicken, and fish lack fiber, they are incredibly satisfying and make an excellent addition to a healthy diet for women with PCOS.
     
    Additionally, anti-inflammatory meals can be beneficial. These include the following:
    • Tomatoes
    • Kale
    • Spinach
    • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Blueberries and strawberries are examples of fruits.
    • Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
     

    Which foods should I avoid or limit?

    Refined carbs contribute to inflammation and exacerbate insulin resistance; they should be avoided or consumed in moderation. These are foods that have been thoroughly processed, such as

    • White bread
    • Muffins
    • Breakfast brioches
    • Desserts
    • ALL PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED WITH WHITE FLOUR

     

    Pasta made with semolina, durum wheat flour, or durum wheat flour is heavy in carbohydrates and low in fiber. They should be avoided. Instead of wheat flour, bean or lentil flour pasta is a good substitute.

     

    Sugar is a carbohydrate and, if feasible, should be avoided. When reading food labels, be aware of the various names for sugar. These include the following:

    • Sucrose
    • Corn syrup with a high fructose content
    • Dextrose

    Additionally, sugar can be concealed in beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juices.

    It is recommended to avoid or limit inflammatory foods such as crisps, margarine, and red or processed meat.

     

    When you're attempting to conceive, you need to eat certain nutrients.

    You’ll need a variety of healthful, nutrient-dense foods as a pregnant woman, including:

    Folic acid

    Folic acid (also known as folate) is a type of vitamin B that is found in Chickpeas. Beans and peas are rich in iron , protein, zinc and are also a great source of fiber. Chickpeas are rich in protein, zinc, potassium and fibre (soya beans, white beans, lentils, pinto beans and kidney beans are other healthy alternatives). 

    Make them into hummus, or roast them and sprinkle over a salad. The most important nutrients you can ingest prior and during pregnancy is vitamin B. Folic acid is ceucial for the formation of normal and healthy cells, but it can also help prevent birth defects like anencephaly and spina bifida. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women should take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day for at least a month before pregnancy. 

    Because folic acid is difficult to come by in whole foods, ensure your prenatal vitamin includes 400 to 600 mcg. It can also be found in foods such as:

    • Vegetables with lots of leaves. 
    • Broccoli, 
    • spinach, 
    • bok choy, 
    • beet and kale 

    are all good options. They can be served as a side dish with soups, salads, stews and omelets fried in olive oil. Cereals contain additional nutrients. Look for breakfast cereals that contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance. Strawberries and oranges 

    They are delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet! Nuts and beans. Just be careful not to eat too many of them at once, as they can aggravate existing stomach problems. 

     

    Calcium

    Calcium keeps your reproductive system in good shape and can even help you get pregnant faster. Buy now because you need a steady supply to keep your baby’s teeth and bones healthy and growing. Assume that your calcium levels are low during pregnancy. 

    If this is the case, your body will extract calcium from your bones and pass it on to the developing baby, increasing the risk of osteoporosis (bone fragility). Take about 1,500 mg of calcium daily from sources such as Milk. 

    One cup of 1% milk, the most popular source of calcium, contains 305 milligrams (mg), or about one-third of the recommended daily calcium intake. It also contains a healthy dose of vitamin D. Soy milk, almond milk and calcium-fortified juices contain it. Enjoy a glass as a snack or as a base for a smoothie.

    Yogurt. A cup of low-fat plain yogurt contains 415 mg per serving, which is about 40% of your daily requirement. You can eat it plain or with fruit, or use it as a base for smoothies, just like milk.

    Cheese. One cup of cottage cheese with 1 percent milk fat contains 138 mg of calcium, while a 1.5-inch serving of partially shredded mozzarella contains 333 mg. A similar-sized bowl of cheddar contains 307 mg, and a 1.5-inch serving of semi-shredded mozzarella contains 333 mg.

    Broccoli and kale. 

    Iron

     This mineral, which carries oxygen throughout your body, is also essential for oxygenating your baby. If you are planning a pregnancy, ask your doctor if you should be tested for iron deficiency, as low iron levels can put your baby at risk for underweight or premature birth.

     Women need about 18 mg of iron per day, but during pregnancy, daily iron requirements increase to 27 mg. Remember that iron is better absorbed from food than from supplements. 

    Here are some excellent resources: 

    Breakfast cereals with added vitamins and minerals. Fortified breakfast cereals contain 18 milligrams of iron per serving. 

    Low-fat meats. Each 3-ounce serving of beef, chicken or turkey contains about 1 mg of iron. Spinach. 12 cups of cooked, drained spinach contains 3 mg of iron per serving, which is about 17% of the daily requirement.

    healthy breakfast set

    Essential fatty acids are omega-3 fatty acids.

    It’s a fat that you might want to add to your diet before getting pregnant. Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in the regulation of key hormones that cause ovulation as well as the improvement of blood flow to the reproductive organs. It’s also a good time to avoid trans fats and minimize saturated fats, such as those found in butter and red meat (found in processed foods such as crisps and biscuits). Although many prenatal supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, getting them from whole foods is just as vital. 

    They’re available at the following locations: Seafood and fish Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, and herring are all high in omega-3 fatty acids. Beef that has been raised on grass. Meat from grass-fed cows has a higher omega-3 concentration than meat from grain-fed cows. There are two sorts of nuts and seeds: nuts and seeds. Walnuts, flax and chia seeds, as well as flax, soya, and rapeseed oils, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. 

    To make a salad more crunchy, add them to your smoothie or sprinkle them on top. Fibre Increasing the amount of complex, slowly digesting carbs in your diet, such as fiber, can help you feel fuller for longer. According to a 2006 study, increasing fiber consumption by 10 grams per day reduces the incidence of gestational diabetes by 26%. Fibre can be found in a variety of places, including: Grains that are whole. Wheat bread, bulgur, oats, and quinoa are all high in fibre.

    The following foods are high in protein: Fish. Salmon is a fatty fish that contains a high amount of protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Meat with a low fat content. Healthy options include lean beef, bison, and fowl (chicken or turkey).

    Beans that are black. 15 grams of protein are included in one cup. Make a breakfast burrito or homemade veggie burgers with them.

    balanced nutrition concept clean eating flexitarian mediterranean diet top view flat nutrition clean eating food concept diet plan with vitamins minerals salmon shrimp mix vegetables

    Fibre-rich muesli. Oatmeal can supply a large quantity of fiber in a single serving. Fruit and vegetables Fibre-rich foods include peas, maize, and broccoli, as well as pears, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches. If you eat the skin or shell, you’ll get an extra helping. Legumes include beans and pulses.

    Fibre is abundant in lentils, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, split peas, and chickpeas. They’re great in salads and stews. Protein provides your kid with the nutrition he or she requires. Some proteins, however, are superior to others. Limit yourself to two or three pieces per day if you’re trying to conceive, one of which should be vegan (e.g. nuts, seeds and legumes).

     

    What to eat if you are trying to get pregnant?

    It’s never too late to change your eating habits. Here are some of the best meals you can eat if you are trying to get pregnant: Spinach. Aim for four to five servings of vegetables a day. Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are a great choice: spinach is rich in calcium, vitamin C, folate and potassium.

    Mix a handful of spinach leaves with vanilla yogurt and a ripe banana for a smoothie. Oranges. Oranges are also rich in vitamin C, calcium and potassium. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the vitamin C in citrus fruits can also help your body absorb iron from non-meat sources. Drink a glass of orange juice or add a few slices to your salads to get more orange in your diet. 

    Milk. Dairy products provide protein, potassium and calcium. Aim for three servings a day and choose products fortified with vitamins A and D. Make oatmeal with fortified milk or use it as a base for smoothies. Cereals contain extra nutrients. Look for whole-grain products that are fortified with iron and folate and have little or no added sugar, whether you buy cooked or ready-to-eat. 

    Chickpeas. beans and peas are rich in protein, iron and zinc and are also a good source of fiber. Chickpeas are high in protein, zinc, potassium and fiber (other healthy options include pinto beans, soybeans, navy beans, lentils and kidney beans). Make hummus or roast them and sprinkle them on a salad. 

    Salmon. Salmon is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and potassium.

    Additional lifestyle modifications to consider

    As is the case with many other illnesses, PCOS improves with proactive lifestyle choices.

    Among these include exercise and regular physical activity. Both can aid in the reduction of insulin resistance, particularly when paired with a low-carbohydrate diet.

    Numerous experts agree on the importance of at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week.

    Daily exercise, a low-sugar diet, and an anti-inflammatory diet can also help you lose weight. Women may discover that losing weight enhances their ovulation. This is why exercise prescribed by a physician is critical for overweight or obese women who wish to conceive.

    PCOS symptoms can be pretty stressful. Stress reduction practices that assist in calming the mind and connecting it to the body may be beneficial. Yoga and meditation are two of these practices.

    Consultation with a therapist or other health experts may also be beneficial.

    young woman stretching before workout