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What is PCOS?

If you’re a woman who’s trying to get pregnant, or simply taking an interest in your health, then it’s well worth your while to get informed about PCOS. It affects as many as 10% of women in the UK, it can impact your physical health, mental health and fertility, so what is PCOS, and what does it mean for you?

What’s in a Name?

PCOS, as an abbreviation, doesn’t tell you much about the nature of the condition. The long form of the name is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which does at least tell you it’s an issue related to your ovaries and reproductive health.

‘Polycystic’ tells you the condition causes cysts (small, fluid filled sacs) in the ovaries but it doesn’t tell you why that happens or how it affects you.

What Causes PCOS?

PCOS is actually caused by your body producing excess insulin, which in turn leads to too much androgen, the male sex hormone. Its presence isn’t an aberration in itself: women naturally produce and are influenced by male sex hormones, and men’s bodies naturally produce oestrogen. In PCOS, though, the hormone balance is disrupted and this single, subtle change produces lots of knock on effects for your body and health.

The reason for this extra insulin production is currently unknown, but scientists are studying a range of genetic and environmental factors to try to pin down just why some people are affected by PCOS while others remain immune.

The Effects of PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome has lots of different effects on your body – the word syndrome is actually used by doctors to refer to a collection of symptoms!

Perhaps most importantly for the whole scope of your life, it affects your fertility. The excess of androgen prevents the development of eggs in your ovaries: the ‘cysts’ in the name are the small sacs containing immature eggs that don’t grow enough to be released as part of your menstrual cycle.

On top of that, the excess androgen disrupts the menstrual cycle itself so you may find your periods are disrupted or even skipped altogether. This makes PCOS a serious challenge to your fertility, and it’s something you’ll need to consider early if you’re planning on starting a family.

Other effects of PCOS include weight gain (due to additional insulin in your system), and extra body hair, especially on the chin, as a result of the androgen.

PCOS is also associated with elevated cases of depression and anxiety, though it’s not currently known if that’s a symptom of the syndrome or associated with it for other reasons.

Dealing With PCOS

If you’re living with PCOS, there are plenty of treatments and medications that help to mitigate the symptoms, though no ‘magic bullet’ cure is available. If you have PCOS and are trying to get pregnant, one of the most important things you can do is identify when you do ovulate: it’s rarer for you than people without the condition, so you need to know when it happens to help you focus your attempts to conceive on that key time! OvuSense can predict your ovulation with 24 hours’ notice by directly monitoring minute changes in your body temperature which makes it a vital resource for couples with PCOS.