What is PCOS and What are the Symptoms?
Medically reviewed by: Monica Rincon, MSc., NFP Health Professional
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic endocrine disorder in reproductive-aged women. Between 10-15 % of women of childbearing age in the USA suffer PCOS. Seventy-five percent of these women suffer infertility because their cycles are anovulatory (unable to release an egg), have a higher concentration of male hormones (androgens) and have metabolic abnormalities such as insulin resistance and obesity. The most classic symptoms are missed periods (no periods) or irregular menstrual cycles (greater than 42 days), excess body hair, acne, weight gain, baldness or thinning of hair, dark or thick patches on the skin, and enlarged ovaries with cysts seen in a pelvic ultrasound.
Women with PCOS have increased circulating luteinizing hormone (LH) levels which result in false positive ovulation test results, due to persistently higher LH levels. However, in only 1 in 3 cases do these high levels lead to ovulation (LH peak). Charting with the Premom app will indicate if your menstrual cycles are anovulatory (no LH peak and no basal body temperature spike, only high constant LH levels). You may have long cycles (no LH peak detected with high LH levels) and a persistent cervical slippery type of mucus, due to the enlarged cysts in the ovaries and continual estrogen production. There are several variables to an LH progression pattern with PCOS. One of the significant LH progression pattern is similar to the chart below.
Although PCOS may cause infertility, as mentioned above, PCOS should be diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor according to the Roterdam ‘s Consensus criteria 2003. The treatment depends on whether the woman wants to achieve or postpone pregnancy.
The pattern in LH (high and persistent LH levels but no LH peak observed) causes the ovary to enlarge and create cysts, instead of releasing the egg. The ovary will respond by increasing cholesterol (fat) conversion to androgens (male hormones). This leads to the symptoms of excess body hair or thinning of the hair. Increasing circulating levels of insulin may be present, and an incidence of abnormal glucose is present in every 1 out of 3 cases of PCOS. A missed or irregular period and non-typical LH progression pattern can be the most obvious symptoms of PCOS.
Once treated log and track your period again with an easy and smart app like Premom to figure out your period cycle. Tests like the Premom Quantitative Ovulation Test Strips can help you more precisely pinpoint your LH Surge ending in peak by giving you your exact LH levels. Keep in mind that basal body temperature tracking can help you confirm that you've found the right LH Surge and peak, assuring your timing for intercourse.
Premom is a free digital ovulation reader and can assist you with both your data-tracking, including period tracking and ovulation tracking all in one place.
Monica Rincon is a certified Marquette Method Natural Family Planning (NFP) Teacher / fertility awareness educator and a medical microbiologist.
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Updated August 27, 2020