Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
If you haven’ already done so, you might want to read our page on Infertility & IVF Support too.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common diagnoses in women finding it difficult to conceive. Even outside of difficulties conceiving, PCOS can be a great source of frustration and distress for women. The disorder can potentially involve a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms, involving both body and mind. At Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford, we’ve worked successfully with many women struggling with conception issues, including PCOS. If you suspect you might have PCOS but aren’t sure, we can refer you for blood tests, as well as other testing, that can get to the root of your problem. If you come to us having already received a diagnosis, there’s a wealth of effective treatment we can offer. Difficulties conceiving? Why not call Advance Clinic and get the quality advice and care you’ve been looking for.
What is PCOS?
Ovulatory dysfunction is a common cause of female subfertility. Some 20-32% of subfertile or infertile women experience problems with ovulation and this is central to their difficulties with fertility.
Of women with ovulatory dysfunction, a significant proportion go on to be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. The ovulatory dysfunction takes the form of menstrual cycle disturbance, especially irregular periods (oligomenorrhoea) or absence of periods (amenorrhoea). Abnormal uterine bleeding and infertility are two other consequences.
Central to the development of PCOS is the onset of metabolic and endocrine (hormonal) abnormalities involving androgens (male sex hormones), oestrogen and other hormones such as insulin. Metabolic syndrome (a pre-diabetic state), obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are closely associated with PCOS (see below).
The exact cause of PCOS is poorly understood. However, we know that the condition can result from dysfunction of an hormonal system in the body called the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Dysfunction here can cause abnormalities in the release of oestrogen and other hormones by the ovaries. Given the web-like connections between different parts of the endocrine system, other hormones in addition to ovarian ones may also become dysfunctional.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of PCOS?
A diagnosis of PCOS is confirmed if a women experiences two out of three of the following:
- Oligomenorrhoea (infrequent periods) and/or anovulation (lack of ovulation).
- Signs of hyperandrogengism, especially hirsutism or excessive facial or body hair.
- Polycystic ovaries – 12 or more follicles located on each ovary (only one ovary need be affected for the diagnosis to be made).
The presence of oligomenorrhoea and/or anovulation is an especially strong predictor of PCOS. About 90% of women affected with these issues receive a PCOS diagnosis.
The widespread effects of hormones on body physiology mean that your signs and symptoms can be diverse if you suffer with PCOS. They can include the following:
- Menstrual dysfunction, including irregular periods, painful periods, or no periods.
- Subfertility and infertility.
- Hirsuitism, or excessive facial and body hair.
- Metabolic syndrome (signs and symptoms indicating a pre-diabetic state).
- Sleep apnoea.
- Depression and low mood.
It’s not difficult to see how PCOS can make your life a misery: physically, mentally and emotionally.
Why PCOS Matters If You’re Trying to Become Pregnant
As mentioned above, the ovulatory problems that are often found in association with PCOS will almost certainly have a negative effect on your fertility.
A minority of women with PCOS experience outright infertility due to complete ovulation failure. Most with the condition ovulate intermittently and in this case it’s possible you’ll conceive. However, it often takes a women with PCOS longer to conceive than those with normal ovulatory patterns.
Although the data are mixed, there is also some evidence that the rate of miscarriage is higher in those with PCOS. Many PCOS sufferers are obese or overweight and this does increase the risk of miscarriage.
Finally, given the close links between PCOS, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (see below), PCOS carries a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy. All of these are associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes. Pre-term delivery is higher in those with PCOS.
Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes and PCOS
PCOS is closely linked with potentially serious metabolic abnormalities around blood sugar, insulin and blood fat regulation, and which predispose to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Elevated blood sugar and blood insulin, together with high blood levels of triglycerides and raised inflammatory markers such as c-reactive protein (CRP) are commonly found in women with PCOS. About 10% with PCOS have full-blown type 2 diabetes. 30-40% experience impaired glucose tolerance by the time they are forty, putting them at risk for developing diabetes.
Moreover, about 50% of women with PCOS are clinically obese. Overweight and obesity by themselves increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Occasionally, women with PCOS are of normal weight or even a little underweight, but the metabolic syndrome/diabetes/cardiovascular disease risk still appears to be higher.
Obstructive sleep apnoea, another condition commonly found in PCOS, is also an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
There’s Help For PCOS Patients at Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford
At Advance Clinic, we’re totally committed to helping you achieve optimum fertility. Where PCOS is diagnosed, we’re also keen to help you improve your overall health. In doing so, we may be able to reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes, thereby also reducing your cardiovascular disease risk.
Where you’ve already been diagnosed with one or more of these conditions, we’ll work hard to improve your blood sugar, blood lipid and blood insulin markers etc. We can test these as we go along, helping you to track progress. We want to try and reduce the risks associated with elevated levels of these blood components.
Advance Clinic, Hertford uses a variety of strategies to help you achieve optimum fertility and improve your general health status. Central to our approach with PCOS are:
- Dietary, nutritional and other detailed lifestyle advice
- Acupuncture therapy
When combined, our patients with PCOS have found that these strategies can be extremely effective for improving their fertility and health.
PCOS is not a life sentence. The scientific evidence, together with our experience of working with patients, suggests that making positive changes in the areas of diet, nutrition, stress, sleep and exercise etc, can potentially have a profound effect on reducing the symptoms and metabolic and hormonal disturbances associated with PCOS.
We’ll support the important lifestyle changes you make with high-quality acupuncture care.
In their review paper of 2010 presented in the scientific journal Gynaecological Endocrinology, researchers Lim and Wong stated that acupuncture might have the following benefits in improving gynaecological disorders and symptoms, including PCOS:
- By helping to increase blood flow to the ovaries
- By reducing ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts
- By helping to control high blood sugar via stimulation of insulin sensitivity
- By decreasing blood sugar and blood insulin levels
The authors speculated that acupuncture may generate these benefits through having a positive effect on the sympathetic nervous system, as well as the hormonal and neuroendocrine systems.
Our patients’ experience also tells us that acupuncture may well help you in the following ways:
- By improving menstrual cycle regularity and quality
- By helping deal with the emotional impact of PCOS, whether it be anxiety, low mood or depression.
There are a multitude of ways in which acupuncture can help you reduce the impact of PCOS, at the same time boosting your fertility and health. This is especially so when your acupuncture therapy is combined with our effective dietary, nutritional and other lifestyle advice.
If PCOS is the issue, why not contact Advance Clinic today. Our wealth of experience could be the change you’re looking for.
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