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What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Updated on September 26, 2014
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

When My Daughter Was Diagnosed with PCOS, We Didn't Even Know What It Was

When my daughter started to go through puberty around age 13, we expected the usual changes and problems that all parents of a teenage daughter have. However, by the time she turned 15, she had still not had more than a couple of menstrual periods. We talked to her pediatrician, and she recommended taking her to a pediatric endocrinologist.

An endocrinologist is a physician who studies hormones and the effects that they have on the human body, and any problems or issues that come from abnormal hormone activity.

We made an appointment with a recommended endocrinologist and after various tests and examination, she informed us that our daughter had PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). At the time of the appointment, the doctor had to explain to us exactly what that meant, as we had never heard of it before.

Young women
Young women | Source

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a condition in women that can appear as early as age 11. Approximately 1 woman in 15 women of childbearing age has PCOS. In the United States, there are about 5 million cases.

Symptoms of PCOS are high levels of androgens, missed or irregular menstrual periods, and cysts in their ovaries. Other symptoms may be one or more of the following - acne appearing on the back, excessive hair growth on the face and body, weight gain, and problems with ovulation.

In my daughter's case, she had the irregular and missed periods as well as some excessive hair growth on her face and arms.

Do you or anyone you know have PCOS?

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Causes of PCOS

PCOS is not a disease. It is not contagious or passed to another person by touch. In fact, it has not been determined what causes a woman to develop PCOS. There may be genetic factors, and women who have a mother or sister with PCOS are more likely to have it themselves.

As far as we know, there is no one in our family with PCOS on either side of our family.

What we learned was that if we did not treat the PCOS, in time, my daughter would most likely have trouble having children, and other problems would crop up later in life. Since a hormonal imbalance was causing the PCOS, her hormones needed a kick start to move in the direction they should have been going in.

Having Children and PCOS

Women with PCOS can give birth to children, however they may need aid. PCOS changes the amount of progesterone hormone that a woman's ovaries produce which is needed for eggs to mature and the fetus to develop.

If a woman diagnosed with PCOS has trouble conceiving, fertility may be the issue. Treatments can stimulate the process of egg production. If instead, progesterone is the issue, then she can increase progesterone by taking it orally to protect the fetus. Not every woman with PCOS will need these aids. Her physician can decide if the help is necessary.

Miscarriage, preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), gestational diabetes and premature delivery are more common in women with PCOS. Babies delivered to women with PCOS have a greater risk of requiring neonatal intensive care.

Controlling and Treating PCOS

There are several ways to control and treat PCOS. These treatments are different for each patient because they do not always respond to every treatment. Also, women have differing degrees of the condition.

For a women the age of my daughter, birth control pills are often used to treat PCOS. She does not want to get pregnant any time soon, and the birth control pills keep her menstrual periods under a regular cycle. However, as each birth control pill is a different combination of chemicals, not all medications work as well as others to combat the various symptoms of PCOS.

Other medications can treat the excess hair growth. In my daughter's case this was necessary because the first medication did not treat both symptoms. When she decides to have children, this treatment will have to be changed.

PCOS is a lifelong condition. It is not curable.

PCOS is also shown to be related in some way to high sugar levels and diabetes. Studies have shown that women who reduce their weight have less symptoms of PCOS. Many women who have PCOS also have high insulin levels which may be the cause of too much androgen in their system.

Weight Loss and PCOS

It is interesting to note that physicians have observed that even a 10% weight loss can have a very positive effect on PCOS symptoms. While many women with PCOS are overweight or obese, this is not true of all cases.

In my daughter's case, she was about 20 pounds over her ideal weight per the medical charts, and she has been working to lose that weight. Her doctor told her that even just losing 5 or 10 pounds would make a difference in her symptoms.

Therefore, often weight loss techniques are part of the treatment of PCOS, up to and including bariatric weight loss surgery.

Other Health Problems Associated with PCOS

Women may develop other health problems over their lifetime if they have PCOS. These problems include higher risk of heart attack, pre-diabetes before the age of 40, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, anxiety and depression. They are also at risk for endometrial cancer.

Dr. Marilyn Glenville on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) & Fertility

© 2014 Paula Atwell

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    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 13 months ago from Canada

      It is so sad when your child has health issues. Hopefully this will not be too much of an issue for her in her future years.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      Sorry to hear this. My daughter struggles with this as well. In our case, bringing her to both a chiropractor and homeopath have helped immensely.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
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      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Chitrangada Thanks, I think it is just one more thing that now has a name and treatment. Many of the symptoms are seen alone but not all together. :)

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @teaches So far, she is doing very well. :)

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Nell Rose, yes, I am not sure what will happen as she gets older and if she decides to have a family. One step at a time. :)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is very informative and useful hub!

      PCOS has become a very common disease nowadays, even in India. I have seen many girls being affected by it.

      The good news is that doctors have come up with effective treatment for the same. I wish your daughter all the best. God bless her!

      Thanks for sharing your personal story, as many people who are affected will benefit from it.

      Voted up!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I have heard of only one person with PCOS. I hope your daughter is able to receive the support she needs from new research on this condition. Sounds like she is handling it well and will enjoy a well balanced lifestyle.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi Paula, I had heard of it but never realised the side effects of pcos, its one of those things that doesn't get enough information out there, sorry to hear that your daughter is suffering with it, I do hope the meds can be adjusted as she gets older, this is really useful for anyone who has the symptoms but are not sure exactly whats going on, voted up and shared!

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Suzanne She does take meds but diet is the most important issue. :)

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      It must have been very hard on your daughter to find out PCOS was incurable. At least there are some medications to assist with controlling it. Voted useful!

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Sulabha Good to know. Thanks for commenting. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing your story, Paula. This is a difficult condition indeed, I'm glad that your daughter is a brave girl!

    • Sulabha profile image

      Sulabha Dhavalikar 3 years ago from Indore, India

      A distant relative of ours had suffered from this. She took homeopathic treatment for some time and now she has a son aged 4 years. But that's besides the point. Main thing is that homeopathy offers treatment in this problem.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Melinda Thanks for your personal response. My daughter got diagnosed as a young teen so we haven't dealt with the issue of having kids, but at least we know there may be an issue. Congrats on your own family. Enjoy them in good health. :)

    • Melinda Longoria profile image

      Melinda Longoria, MSM 3 years ago from Garland, Texas

      Paula, thank you for posting this article. You've included a lot of great information here on PCOS in this informational hub. My husband and I tried to start our family for a little over 6 years before I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2007. I had a cystectomy surgery and a year of clomid fertility treatments. We had our first son in 2010 a few months after I stopped the clomid treatments. The weight was also an issue as I had lost ten pounds or so to go on a cruise that month. Today, we have three beautiful children that were all conceived naturally without any help from hormones or any fertility treatments. Tell your daughter not to give up hope. PCOS and infertility can be heartbreaking to go through when trying to start your family, but there is so much that doctors and fertility specialists can do to help with the symptoms today.