A Common Cause of Infertility in Women

Sep. 6, 2019

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder which affects one in 10 women of childbearing age.

Among other health risks, those who suffer from the condition experience higher risks for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, endometrial cancer and difficulty conceiving. In fact, PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

What is PCOS?

Michael Thomas, MD, serves as the executive vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief of the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He describes PCOS as a “reproductive disorder in women, which emanates from a hormonal imbalance.”

PCOS Diagnosis

Although symptoms vary by individual, a woman must experience two of the following issues to support a diagnosis of PCOS:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles.

  • An increase in male pattern hair growth or acne.

  • Polycystic ovaries (many small cysts, verified by an ultrasound).

Thomas explains that because most women with PCOS do not release an egg regularly as a component of their menstrual cycle, it is more difficult to conceive or to accurately time pregnancy attempts. Thomas also notes that weight control through diet and exercise and the use of a contraceptive agent between pregnancies to protect the uterus can have a positive impact for those with the disorder.

Does PCOS Always Cause Infertility?

For women with PCOS who want to conceive, Thomas confirms that it is important to consult a fertility specialist as early as possible. Working together with a fertility specialist, a treatment regimen can be created to regulate hormones within the body or to further explore other factors, which may serve as an obstacle to conception. “PCOS is a very treatable condition and many patients are oftentimes surprised by simple changes that can be made to overcome the disorder,” states Thomas.

“Seeing a fertility specialist as early as possible can help identify individual challenges and increase the likelihood of finding a treatment regimen that could be helpful.”

Learn more about PCOS and the UC Health PCOS Center, the first in the region to bring together highly-trained physicians and providers, offering a collaborative approach to the management of PCOS.