September is the month devoted to giving visibility to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a very common but less well-known disorder.
It is normal, when discovering that you suffer from PCOS, to ask yourself: will it affect my fertility? Understanding the difference between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and polycystic ovaries (PCO) helps to answer this question.
It’s a case of two different conditions sharing the same symptom: polycystic ovaries. In this blog, we will explain their differences and how they can affect fertility.
What are polycystic ovaries?
There are many women suffering from polycystic ovaries who are not always aware of the full medical implications of this health condition. To put it simply, a woman’s ovaries are polycystic when she has 8 or more follicles in a resting state (that is, during her period). This higher than usual number of follicles can be identified by a very simple ultrasound scan.
That said, it is interesting to note that having polycystic ovaries does not actually mean that you have ovarian cysts, although the name of this ovarian disorder can lead to confusion.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a disease that affects the female reproductive system and the endocrine system, that is, the system that regulates hormone secretion. This syndrome occurs when a woman produces more male hormones than usual.
One of the symptoms of this pathology (but not the only one) is the existence of polycystic ovaries. But PCOS also manifests itself through other symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance: hyperandrogenism (increased levels of male hormones that cause acne, excess body hair, etc.), anovulation, dysregulation of the menstrual cycle, and so on.
In fact, the diagnostic criterion for PCOS is the existence of at least 2 of these symptoms. The problem is that, as there is no clear pattern in the manifestation of PCOS, it is not always easy to diagnose it.
Suffering from PCOS or polycystic ovaries is not the same thing.
First of all, they have different origins, but also the two conditions affect the body in a different way, so the symptoms and medical implications of both conditions have nothing to do with each other.
Polycystic ovaries are a quite common gynaecological condition among women. Normally, this is a disorder that does not necessarily imply the presence of other health problems in women.
However, PCOS is a problem that affects a woman’s endocrine system, and although the causes have not yet been determined, there is growing evidence of genetic implications in its origin. Moreover, a woman’s lifestyle and habits have a direct impact on the appearance of PCOS.
As they have different origins, the consequences of these two conditions vary.
Polycystic ovaries are an alteration in the usual number of follicles in the ovary, and most often this alteration goes unnoticed as it is asymptomatic. That said, it is true that in some women it can cause irregular periods and painful ovulations, which can usually be solved with hormonal treatment to help restore the proper functioning of the female reproductive system.
By comparison, PCOS involves an excessive production of male hormones by the female endocrine system, leading to the formation of ovarian cysts and other symptoms, which we have discussed above:
Will I have the chance to become a mother?
Here is the big question that concerns most women.
Polycystic ovary disease does not directly affect fertility. However, it can cause some problems in the ovulation process, which can usually be easily solved. In some cases – much less common – polycystic ovaries can lead to the production of poor-quality eggs. But if this is your case, don’t panic: you can always resort to egg donation.
In the case of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the situation is different. Given the hormonal alterations characteristic of this syndrome, a woman’s fertility is directly affected. The excessive production of male hormones prevents the correct follicular growth and, therefore, the release of the ovum, which remains atrophied in the ovary.
Fertility treatments for PCOS will depend on the severity of each patient’s condition, although ovarian stimulation will always be necessary. After that, couples may opt for Artificial Insemination (AI), In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
If you have any doubts about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or polycystic ovaries, do not hesitate to contact our team of fertility and assisted reproduction professionals.