18 October 2023

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In conversation with Dr Rob Lahoud: all you need to know about PCOS

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With a mixed bag of symptoms, urban myths and endless silver bullets marketed by ill-informed Instagram pages, PCOS has become somewhat of an enigma for Australian women. Though, around 1 in 6 have the condition.

As Your Fertility Family, we’re in your corner to team you with all the facts around PCOS, because – like many reproductive conditions – awareness and education can often be lacking. So, let’s discuss what a diagnosis of PCOS truly means for your reproductive future. As we’ll learn, it isn’t all doom and gloom, but rather something that is manageable.

We sat down with world class Fertility Specialist, Dr Robert Lahoud, to get to the crux of what PCOS really entails. Dr Lahoud has extensive clinical experience with PCOS and is the founder of IVFAustralia’s PCOS Clinic where those with the condition can access the highest quality of care while trying to start their family. Here’s some of the most commonly asked questions about PCOS to ensure you’re armed with all the information you need.

What is PCOS and what symptoms should I look out for?

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is the most common endocrine (hormonal) condition in women of reproductive age. It is thought to affect about 15% of women in this age group. It causes irregular periods, adult acne and can be a significant cause of hirsutism (excessive male-pattern hair growth). 

How do I get a PCOS diagnosis?

In the recently revised international evidence-based guideline for PCOS, a diagnosis is based on two out of three features:

  1. Irregular periods
  2. Signs or symptoms of hyperandrogenism
  3. PCO on ultrasound or an increased AMH.

To make a diagnosis of PCOS, irregular periods, occurring, either less than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart. The presence of acne as well as hirsutism are part of the diagnosis. The doctor will perform a hormone profile. This may show increased levels of androgens/testosterone. Finally, an ultrasound may show polycystic ovaries or a blood test, alternatively, may show increased levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH). If two out of the three symptoms are present, a diagnosis of PCOS will be confirmed.

How can PCOS be managed/treated?

If you suspect you may have PCOS, seeking medical advice is crucial. Once diagnosed, the journey to better health involves addressing both the immediate symptoms and the long-term risks associated with the condition. It's important to remember that PCOS affects individuals differently, so personalised care is key. Your medical practitioner will work closely with you to tailor a treatment plan that suits your unique needs and goals. Whether it's managing irregular periods, controlling hormonal imbalances, or addressing fertility concerns, PCOS management is a holistic approach that focuses on improving your overall well-being.

Why and how does PCOS impact fertility?

Women with PCOS are less likely to ovulate every month. This means that it takes longer to achieve a pregnancy. A gauge of how often a patient ovulates, is how irregular periods are. The less frequent the periods the less likely the patient is ovulating.

What are some common myths about PCOS?

Women with PCOS are all obese.

FALSE. While weight gain is a common symptom among those with PCOS, not all are obese. PCOS comes with a wide range of symptoms and manifestations, and it can affect individuals of all body types. Some people with PCOS may have a healthy body weight or even be underweight, highlighting the importance of recognising the diversity within this condition and tailoring treatments to each individual's specific needs.

All women with PCOS are infertile.

FALSE.  Though PCOS can impact fertility for some, it does not render all people with PCOS infertile. Many individuals with the condition can conceive and have children either naturally or with appropriate medical support and lifestyle management. It's important to seek guidance from healthcare professionals if you have concerns about fertility, as early intervention and treatment can significantly improve the chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy for many women with PCOS.

All women with PCOS miscarry regularly.

FALSE. While PCOS can increase the risk of miscarriage for some individuals due to hormonal imbalances and other factors, it doesn't mean that every person with PCOS will face this issue. With proper medical care and support, many people with PCOS have successful pregnancies and healthy babies.

Does PCOS always mean imbalanced hormones?

No. There is a spectrum form minimal (undetectable) hormone shifts to much more severe hormonal imbalances.

What can I do to balance hormones naturally?

The most important natural treatment is to follow a good lifestyle. This means regular, sometimes strenuous, exercise to stay fit. Diet is very important. There is no one diet that fits all individuals. In general, healthy choices and calorie control are recommended.

What are the success rates for ovulation induction to treat PCOS?

For example, a woman at the age of 30 with regular periods has a 15% chance of conceiving each month. A woman with PCOS, who takes letrozole has the same 15% chance. If the PCOS patient takes FSH injections, that pregnancy rate is 20%. This treatment is riskier, as there is a higher rate of multiple pregnancy reported. Letrozole is the first line treatment recommended for ovulation induction.

If you have PCOS and it’s taking you a little longer to conceive, we’re here to help! Give us a call or leave an enquiry below to get started.

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