PCOS - The reproductive disorder in disguise

One in five women of child bearing age have Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  Up to 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed.

PCOS is a reproductive disorder that is commonly thought to be defined by the location of cysts on the ovaries in women that are overweight.  However this is not always the case...  This endocrine (hormone) disorder may present in ways other than that described above.

PCOS develops when excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens) are produced when the ovaries are stimulated either by the release of excessive luteinising hormone (LH) or through high levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinaemia).  So to put it plainly, an imbalance in hormones - either reproductive or metabolic.

How does this happen?  Stress, diet and lifestyle may contribute to insulin resistance and hormone metabolism.

You may not present as the 'typical' PCOS sufferer.  For example, not all women that have been diagnosed with PCOS are overweight.  Some in fact have very low weight and BMI.

Some of the presentations are:

  • Hirsutism (abnormal growth of facial and/or body hair)
  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles (also a lack of ovulation)
  • Subfertility or infertility
  • Anxiety, depression, eating disorders
  • Metabolic features: obesity, dyslipidaemia, diabetes/pre-diabetes

Insulin resistance may have an effect on follicular maturation.  Therefore even though these women may not have PCOS, if they are following a doctor led fertility treatment plan of follicle stimulation that is not working, then this may well be a consideration to be investigated.

There are many herbs and nutrients that improve insulin resistance, balancing hormones (especially restoring 'normal' LH production).  Specific dietary changes also have a positive impact, along with exercise and stress management.  This type of treatment can improve your fertility health and open your fertility window.

It is important that each PCOS patient is assessed individually as treatment is not a one size fits all approach.  The disguise of this condition needs to be established and then a plan tailored to your individual needs.