Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS for short, is the most common hormone condition affecting young women. But while it is relatively common, around 70 per cent of women with PCOS are undiagnosed.
Fertility SA specialist Professor Rob Norman is a leading researcher on this often-misunderstood condition. In this Fertility SA podcast series he explains what PCOS is, the symptoms, and how PCOS can affect fertility.
“PCOS is a very wide condition that encompasses a lot of organ systems,” explains Professor Norman.
Symptoms vary between women, but usually start developing in the teenage years.
“When one’s a teenager, it’s often skin conditions that are the first things that occur, so lots of acne, and sometimes unwanted hair growth.
“A lack of regular periods is another main sign, so a teenager may get to 16 or 17 and find that she has very infrequent periods, eight or less a year.
“And then other symptoms that may occur later in life are problems with weight, insulin resistance, there’s a four-fold increased risk of getting diabetes mellitus, and there’s also a lot of features that would suggest that cardiovascular disease should occur – that includes increased cholesterol, triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.
“On top of all this, there’s a much higher degree of stress, anxiety and depression that occurs in women with PCOS.”
According to Professor Norman, women with PCOS are more likely to have fertility issues due to infrequent ovulation.
“Women with PCOS do not ovulate as often as often as women who are having regular periods. If ovulation only happens one or two times a year, it’s obvious that fertility chance is going to be less.”
Women with PCOS should feel reassured that there are a range of fertility treatments available to them, ranging from lifestyle intervention, such as weight loss, to simple medications, injections and medical procedures.
“I would expect 90 per cent of people with PCOS are going to be able to have a baby really easily,” said Professor Norman.
Listen to the full podcast.