PCOS: The most common cause of infertility is the most easily treated

by Ermina Konstantinidou, last updated 04 Sep 2020

Many women, when faced with the diagnosis of PCOS are overcome by fear that they will never be able to experience motherhood. However, this misconception is far from the truth, so let’s analyze things a bit further to understand that even though PCOS is the most common cause of infertility, it is at the same time the most easily treated.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common finding in women of reproductive age. The most common symptoms of PCOS are irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeds, abnormal hair growth and acne. Approximately 4-18% of women are affected by this endocrine condition with many facing infertility problems.

Why does it cause infertility?

PCOS causes a hormonal imbalance to a woman’s body (elevated male hormones) leading the ovaries to overproduce estrogen, which in turn may cause women to have cycles where their body is not able to ovulate. No ovulation means that no egg is released from the ovary the month such cycle occurs, hence achieving pregnancy during that month is impossible.

Why is it easily treated?

Since in PCOS anovulation is the cause of infertility the solution is to aid the body in ovulating. Nowadays, there are many ways that can be achieved in women with PCOS, with or without the use of medication.

Curing infertility

The first-line treatment for all women suffering from PCOS is a lifestyle change. Having a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy body weight (weight loss if needed), having a low carb diet and regular exercise are the required lifestyle changes. If, however, the symptoms do not subside then pharmaceutical interventions may be needed.

One option is to take selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) in pill form for timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments. The most well-known SERM is clomiphene citrate and it basically battles the estrogen overproduction allowing ovulation to occur.

If women have no response to SERMS or are considered resistant and still have anovulated cycles another option for timed intercourse and IUI treatments is to use injectable fertility medications. In this scenario, low doses of gonadotropin hormones in injectable form are used to ensure the development of a follicle and once that follicle reaches the desired size a triggering injection is used to release the egg from the follicle. Due to the fact that these are the hormones that signal the ovary to produce eggs many women will produce more than one egg in such treatment cycles and have an increased risk of twin pregnancies.

The last option for women with PCOS is IVF/ICSI treatment cycles. This may sometimes even be the first-line treatment route in cases where there are issues with the fallopian tubes or sperm. With IVF/ICSI gonadotropin hormones are used again in higher dosages to help may follicles develop. Once they reach the desired size, a triggering injection is again used and the released eggs are collected through a procedure called egg collection. After the egg collection, the eggs will be fertilized in the lab and then frozen (usually on the day 5 of the embryo development) to be used in a new frozen embryo transfer cycle. The benefit of this method is that multiple embryos can be created and they can be transferred at any time the woman desires without time affecting the success rates.

While myths persist around PCOS and the inability to achieve a pregnancy, the reality is quite the opposite. Consulting with a doctor and a specialist in reproductive medicine is very important to assist you in regard to your fertility.

Here at Newlife IVF Greece we have dealt with countless cases of women with PCOS and have helped them achieve their dream of motherhood. If you or someone you know is suffering from this, please know that you are not alone, we are here for you and ready to embark on this fertility journey together.

Ermina Konstantinidou

Ermina Konstantinidou, BSc

Ermina is a Midwife and an International Patient Coordinator at Newlife IVF Greece.

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