Why can’t I get pregnant?

Trying but it’s not happening? It could be PCOS.

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition caused by an imbalance of hormones that results in small cysts growing on the ovaries. PCOS mostly affects women in their late teens and 20s, and can cause irregular periods, infertility as well as other health issues.

PCOS is more common than you may realize, according to Charise M. Shively, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist with Norton OB/GYN Associates.

“Five to 10 percent of women have PCOS, yet it’s a treatable condition and can be managed effectively working with your OB/GYN,” Dr. Shively said. “If you’re having irregular periods and suspect something isn’t right, it’s probably time to see a gynecologist.”

Diagnosing and treating PCOS early can help control symptoms and prevent long-term problems from developing, including diabetes and heart disease.

Common symptoms of PCOS:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular periods
  • Facial hair
  • Pelvic pain

Now what?

PCOS is treated differently depending on your goals.

“If a patient isn’t trying to get pregnant, we can treat PCOS with hormone therapy or birth control pills,” Dr. Shively said. “If couples are trying to get pregnant and have gone a year without conceiving, PCOS can sometimes be the reason. In that case, we look at other options such as medications to improve ovulation.”

Once you make an appointment, what should you expect from your doctor? Dr. Shively says it’s relatively simple to check for PCOS.

“First we’ll talk about your history and conduct a physical exam. We might order blood work to check your thyroid and the different hormones in your bloodstream. Sometimes we order an ultrasound to look for cysts,” she said. “Depending on what we find, we’ll start treatment to manage your symptoms.”

Don’t suffer in silence

Because PCOS can have serious consequences on your health, always see your doctor if something’s not right with your menstrual cycle.

“PCOS is very manageable,” Dr. Shively said. “Early diagnosis and treatment can really make a difference, so it’s important to see your gynecologist for an evaluation if you have a concern.”

Being overweight can also contribute to PCOS, and diet and exercise can help.

But Dr. Shively cautions patients not to self-treat.

“While diet and exercise certainly help, with PCOS there are other factors involved, so it’s important to consult your doctor before starting any type of therapy,” she said.

See your doctor every year for your overall health

Even if you don’t have symptoms of PCOS, if you haven’t seen your OB/GYN in a while, now is a good time to make an appointment.

“Women should always see a gynecologist for an annual exam anyway,” Dr. Shively said. “We see women as young as 16 for overall women’s care. It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to perform a pelvic exam.”

Don’t have an OB/GYN? We can help you find one.


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