Infertility is a painful problem for those wishing to become parents, and sometimes the causes can be difficult to pinpoint.
You may not know that 7-10% of women of childbearing age, or 5-6 million, suffer from a hormone disorder called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the most common cause of infertility.
September is PCOS Awareness Month, and Dr. Keven Hooker and our Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care team are highlighting the fact that even though a PCOS diagnosis is tough, effective treatments are available.
Another little-discussed fact is that women living with PCOS have a higher risk for diabetes and insulin resistance, so controlling your blood sugar is critical in managing your PCOS well.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: The basics
Women with PCOS produce a surplus of androgens — male hormones that women usually have in small amounts. The condition gets its name because of the many tiny fluid-filled cysts that typically form in the ovaries. PCOS can keep patients and their doctors guessing since some women with PCOS don’t develop cysts at all.
The cysts (in those who develop them) often form when a woman doesn’t ovulate, and they cause the release of androgens.
PCOS symptoms include:
- Light, irregular, or missed periods
- Enlarged ovaries or ones that are affected by cysts
- Thinning hair on the head, but excess hair in certain places on the body
- Weight gain, especially abdominal
- Skin tags or thick, dark spots in certain areas of the body
- Acne and oily skin
Although researchers haven’t discovered the precise cause of PCOS, they’ve uncovered a familial link — if your mother or sister has PCOS, you’re more likely to be affected.
Many PCOS sufferers are also insulin resistant, so they don’t efficiently use insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose in your blood. When your body can’t use insulin well, you end up with double trouble: high blood sugar and high insulin levels.
Androgen production shoots up when insulin levels increase. Living with obesity also exacerbates PCOS inflammation and symptoms since it causes insulin levels to rise.
What you and your doctor can do to manage your PCOS well
Dr. Hooker partners with you, which involves treatment to ease symptoms and steps you can take to help further mitigate symptoms.
Because of the close connection between PCOS, insulin resistance, and your increased risk for diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can be a powerful step in keeping your PCOS symptoms under control — and upping your chances of becoming a mom if you wish to.
What can you do to control your blood sugar? Follow these tips:
1. Eat well
Making some shifts in your diet helps you get a handle on your blood sugar. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and non-starchy veggies (think greens, broccoli, and the like), whole grain bread, legumes, olive oil, and fish with lots of omega-3s like salmon are all smart bets.
Avoid highly processed foods, bread and cakes with refined flour, alcohol, red meat, processed luncheon meat, fried foods, and butter.
Once you get in the swing of eating better, we bet you’ll enjoy the “good fuel” better than the junky stuff.
2. Tame stress
Stress is a key contributor to blood sugar that’s all over the place: ridiculously long work weeks, a lack of high-quality rest, or simply doing too much without sufficient time to replenish.
If stressors tell your body to produce too much cortisol — the stress hormone — this can contribute to insulin resistance.
3. Increase your physical activity
Exercise helps level out your blood sugar, but it doesn’t have to be a drag. Choose activities you enjoy, whether it’s a sport or something you didn’t even consider exercise but is, like gardening or rocking out to your favorite tunes while cleaning the house.
What if you do all these things and your blood sugar remains high? Dr. Hooker may prescribe medications that cause you to ovulate and ease your symptoms. Birth control pills can regulate your periods and reduce acne and unwanted hair growth if you’re not trying to get pregnant. He may also prescribe diabetes medications, such as metformin, which often prove effective at stimulating ovulation, reducing insulin resistance, and hindering androgen production.
Relief from the symptoms of PCOS is within reach, and so is motherhood if that’s your goal.
Call the Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care office today at 928-683-1667 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hooker if you think you may be dealing with PCOS, or book one online. We are here for you.