For such a widespread condition, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is not as well understood as it could be. The NHS estimates as many as one in five women suffer from the issue, but if you’re diagnosed with it it may not leave you feeling you understand anything more about your body! It is known that PCOS affects your fertility, but why and how severely is often poorly explained. It can leave you feeling like you can never get pregnant – and not even knowing why!
Today, we’re taking a look at PCOS and Ovulation, explaining how the two are linked, and how this affects fertility.
How PCOS Affects Your Body
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormone driven condition: hormone imbalances in your body cause the list of symptoms which make up the syndrome. The initial hormone disturbance is to your insulin levels: while doctors still don’t know what triggers this initial overproduction of insulin, it’s the driver of the rest of the syndrome – the engine at the heart of the symptoms.
This excess of insulin causes you become resistant to its effects, so your body creates more and more insulin, with less and less reaction. Insulin resistance leads to weight gain, as your body cannot manage its blood sugar levels effectively, and weight gain leads to a further hormone issue. Oestrogen, the primary female hormone is created in fat cells, so if you gain weight, your body produces more oestrogen.
Meanwhile, the overproduction of insulin also stimulates your body to create more androgens – the male sex hormones – specifically testosterone. It’s the interactions between these three hormones that cause the full list of symptoms of PCOS.
PCOS and Ovulation
PCOS makes you ovulate less frequently and less regularly. In a normal menstrual cycle, your ovaries start to mature between ten and twenty eggs in fluid filled sacs called ‘follicles’. Over the course of the follicular phase of your cycle, which lasts between 11 and 27 days, these eggs grow and mature, and eventually the healthiest one will be released into the fallopian tubes, while the others are reabsorbed by the body.
With PCOS, the warring hormones in your body interrupt this process. Those eggs take longer mature, and remain in the ovaries in their follicles, causing swelling and discomfort. Mature eggs are ovulated less often, and not according to a predictable schedule.
PCOS does not make you infertile, but it does given you fewer chances to get pregnant and makes them harder to identify. If you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS, using a Basal Body Temperature thermometer to identify ovulation will allow you to spot those important peaks in fertility so you can plan around them, and give yourself the best possible chance of getting pregnant with PCOS.