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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome explained

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome explained

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects millions of women around the world, including Victoria Beckham and Jamie Oliver's wife Jools. One of the main symptoms of polycystic ovaries is difficulty getting pregnant, but both Victoria and Jools are proud parents to four children. The condition is hormone related, caused by small cysts growing on a woman’s ovaries which cause a hormone imbalance. This in turn leads to irregular periods, which of course can make it hard to fall pregnant. It can also cause other health concerns, like diabetes, heart disease, depression and sleep apnoea if not treated.

PCOS specialist Dr Israel Ortega, from leading Spanish clinic IVI Fertility, has shed some light on the topic, including what it means for fertility.

“Unfortunately, there is still some confusion throughout the medical world as to what causes PCOS. It is widely thought to have a genetic link, however this is yet to be scientifically proven," Dr Ortega outlined.

"We also know that many women suffering from PCOS are found to have a hormone imbalance which is likely to be a contributing factor. In particular, women with PCOS are known to have raised levels of testosterone, Prolactin and LH, and are often deficient in SHBG – which also increases the effect of testosterone.”

Like anything symptoms vary case to case, as does severity. But the main culprits include weigh gain, acne, irregular periods, hair loss from the head, excessive body hair growth, and a difficulty getting pregnant.

“If you are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with PCOS then in the first instance it is advisable that you book in to see your GP who will be able to carry out the necessary checks and rule out any other conditions. In some cases, they might also carry out an ultrasound scan, and/or a blood test as part of the exploration process. Following a diagnosis you may be referred to a PCOS specialist who will be able to help advise you on the best way to manage the symptoms," Dr Ortega explained.

Unfortunately there is no cure for PCOS, but symptoms can be managed. A weight loss programme may prove effective, as studies have shown that just a five per cent weight loss in overweight women can positively impact their PCOS.

The contraceptive pill can help regulate periods, and those trying to get pregnant are advised to see a fertility specialist.

"They will be able to check if there are any further problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes, before advising on the best cause of medication. Clomifene is often prescribed in the first instance and is used to encourage the regular release of an egg from the ovaries. If this medication is found to be unsuccessful, then there are a number of other options which can be considered," Dr Ortega said.

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