pcos ask the gynae

Do you have PCOS? This gynaecologist has help

Larisa Corda - headshot

The symptoms of PCOS can be devastating  from excessive facial hair to unexplained weight gain.   Healthista gynaecologist Dr Larisa Corda explains what can be done

From irregular periods to excessive facial hair and weight gain, patients I see with PCOS find the condition devastating because its symptoms seem to affect the entire body.  And, it’s common.

Polycystic ovaries affect 1 in 5 women in the UK. The term is a bit of a misnomer in that the ovaries do not contain cysts but instead small follicles that contain multiple immature eggs.

Not all women with polycystic ovaries have the syndrome and not all women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have all the symptoms, which can vary.

Signs and symptoms

Common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
  • Excessive hair growth (hirsutism)– usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
  • Oily skin or acne

How PCOS is diagnosed

If you have any of the symptoms discussed above, go and see your GP who should order some blood tests and an ultrasound scan, to assess the ovaries. A diagnosis is made using a combination of symptoms, blood tests and ultrasound findings.

Fertility problems

PCOS accounts for one of the most common reasons behind female infertility because the hormonal imbalance that can result can mean a woman may not ovulate each month. As a result, an egg is not released and available to fertilise.

Metabolic problems

Having PCOS can increase your chances of developing other health problems in later life, especially those related to disturbances in metabolism.

For example, women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes because they’re more likely to develop insulin resistance, which occurs when blood sugar levels become difficult to control. They will also have an increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Overweight women are also more likely to develop sleep apnoea, a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. In addition, women who have very irregular periods – which is a key symptom of PCODS – are at risk of developing endometrial or womb cancer, which can be minimized by being on the oral contraceptive pill or having a contraceptive coil inserted.

PCOS-type-2-diabetes.jpg

Pregnancy risks

If you have PCOS, you have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and miscarriage.

These risks are all greater if you’re overweight, so by reducing weight, you can lower the chances of all these potential problems and improve the chance of pregnancy in the first instance.

How is PCOS treated?

Lifestyle changes

The great news is that by making certain adjustments to your lifestyle, the risk of any fertility and long term metabolic problems is greatly reduced.

In fact, weight loss of just 5% can increase the chances of spontaneous ovulation. Exercise and diet are  important to help you to achieve this and we know that what is shown to help most is a diet low in sugar and rich in fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins and low Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates such as quinoa, sweet potato and brown rice.  Aim also eat a diet that’s as clean and unprocessed, organic and fresh as possible and to exercise about 20-30 mins each day.

pcos-ask-the-gynea-woman-exercising.jpg

Medications

Certain medications can be used to help improve regularity of periods and reduce the risk of uterine cancer. Most typically, this is the oral contraceptive pill.

However, for those women looking to conceive, other medication, such as clomiphene, which stimulates ovulation, can be used to improve the chance of ovulation and therefore pregnancy. Ultimately, IVF can be used to help.

In addition, metformin is often used to treat type 2 diabetes, but it can also lower insulin and blood sugar levels in women with PCOS.  As well as stimulating ovulation, encouraging regular monthly periods and lowering the risk of miscarriage, metformin can also have other long-term health benefits, such as lowering high cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Your doctor will decide on the best medication to put you on, by doing an overall assessment. Other medications can also be used to treat some of the other problems associated with PCOS, including:

  • Weight-loss medication, such as orlistat, if you’re overweight.
  • cholesterol-lowering medication (statins) if you have high levels of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Acne treatments.
  • Excessive hair growth treatments
Surgery

If PCOS does not respond to medication, sometimes something called laparoscopic ovarian drilling is done, which involves stimulating the ovaries with heat during keyhole surgery.

Laris Corda, recipes, fertility, christmas, healthista

Dr Larisa Corda is a Consultant in Reproductive Medicine. She qualified from Imperial College London and her training has been both in the UK and Australia, seeing her gain an understanding and appreciation of gynaecological, obstetric and fertility issues across a wide international population.

She currently works for CREATE using natural and mild IVF techniques to assist conception where needed, is ITV This Morning’s and Channel Mum’s Fertility Expert, regularly appears and is quoted by the media, and has several research interests, some of which have been published.

She is also brand ambassador for My Lotus, a new ovulation device, and has launched her own website which offers guidance and support for all those wanting a natural empowering approach to their fertility. You can follow her on Instagram  and Twitter.

More Healthista Content:

8 ways walking can help depression and anxiety – the psychotherapist’s guide

Why some vegans now eat eggs – the rise of the veggan

Vaginal discharge – the gyneacologist’s guide

When you get serious about weight loss, these are 3 things you need to give up

< Back

Also in this week’s magazine

Endometriosis symptoms Here's what you need to know FEATURED
Health

Endometriosis symptoms? Here’s what you need to know

Think you may be experiencing endometriosis symptoms? Laura Walton – founder of CBD product range Moi + Me, shares her experience and reveals the main things we need to know

Sore joints Tired Feeling down Here’s what can help this winter woman with sore joints
Wellness

Feeling down? Sore joints? Tired? Here’s what can help this winter

Whether you’re suffering from joint pain, disturbed sleep or just feeling down in the dumps, you are not the only one. Healthista speaks to the experts

10 best natural remedies to boost immunity & fight off festive colds FEATURED
Expert Chat

10 best natural remedies to boost immunity & fight off festive colds

Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart, PhD explains the best lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to boost immunity and fight off colds fast

How to eat, exercise and live in sync with your menstrual cycle FEATURED
Wellness

How to eat, exercise and live in sync with your menstrual cycle

Feel like you're a slave to your menstrual cycle? P.volve trainer Alexia Acebo reveals how you can sync your periods to your workouts, meals & mood 

12 ways to tackle stress and anxiety FEATURED
Expert Chat

12 ways to tackle stress and anxiety

Feeling out of control and unable to cope? Healthista spoke to the experts who reveal 12 strategies that WORK to help tackle stress and anxiety

7 osteopath recommended morning stretches to set you up for the day FEATURED
Body

7 osteopath recommended morning stretches to set you up for the day

Tight or stiff muscles as soon as you wake up? Osteopath Kemmy Gichaba, reveals 7 morning stretches that will help set you and your body up for the day

Latest Video Series

Healthista-footer

Wellness Weekly

I agree to my personal data being stored and used to receive the Healthista newsletter.

Top

STOP - Healthista needs you!


Tell us what content you want more of...

MenopauseFitness VideosPost-partum careSexual wellness