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Polycystic ovary syndrome… What is it?

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This hormone disorder is considered one of the major causes of infertility in women

Polycystic ovary syndrome… What is it?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the major causes of infertility in women. This hormone disorder affects practically one out of every ten women and its origin is difficult to pinpoint: it could be due to genetic alterations, environmental factors or to other unknown components which give rise to a hormone alteration that triggers the syndrome.

Patients with this condition develop at least two of the following three symptoms: firstly, irregular menstrual cycles, with no ovulation for many months and secondly their ovaries have a polycystic appearance in the ultrasound scan, i.e., they are larger than normal and have a great number of follicles.

This syndrome should be clearly distinguished from that of women whose ovaries have a multi-follicular appearance in the ultrasound scan. This finding may exist in up to 40% of prepubescent women and is not pathological.

The third most frequent sign is hyperandrogenism. Due to the hormonal alterations caused by this syndrome, the body produces larger quantities of masculine hormones. All the above many give rise to symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive body hair growth), acne or hair loss.

Apart from these alterations, these women often have problems in absorbing the sugar produced by their bodies. They are resistant to insulin and have higher than normal levels of this hormone. All the above means that one out of every two women affected by this syndrome suffers from obesity and may also have diabetes.

Difficulties in getting pregnant naturally

The hormone imbalance suffered by these women has a direct effect on their fertility. Since their menstrual cycles are altered, in many cases they are unable to ovulate and it is more difficult to become pregnant naturally without regular ovulation.

According to the assisted reproduction specialist Dr. Rebeca Beguería, “In young patients who have not yet expressed a desire to become pregnant, it is advisable to follow a diet, practise sport regularly and control sugar levels with medication, if necessary”. The doctor adds “In some cases, if these healthy lifestyle guidelines are followed, the woman will ovulate regularly and succeed in getting pregnant naturally”.

When this is not possible and it is not possible to get pregnant spontaneously, the best option is to visit a specialist. Depending on each case, the doctor will recommend an assisted reproductive treatment -which may be either artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation– by previously stimulating the ovaries with treatments to achieve ovulation.

“In all cases”, says Dr. Begueria, “it is advisable to consult a doctor since the recommendations and treatments are different, depending on the severity of the condition, the time spent in trying to get pregnant and the woman’s age”, she concludes.

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