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What is PCOD Problem in Females and How Does It Affect Fertility?

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Confined within our schools, offices, and homes, we’re leading a dangerously sedentary and idle life without much physical activity, change in the routine, or fun, and a lot of stress.

This lifestyle can have a profoundly negative impact on your health, and you know it, we all know it. But before we proceed further, here are a few questions that will help you understand the gravity of your condition

Are your periods regular, or do they seem to have a mind of their own?

Are you trying a diet to lose weight, but see no impact whatsoever?

Do you see fine hair on your face when you look closely in the mirror?

Do you always feel tired or fatigued, and find that resting doesn’t seem to improve your condition?

Does your mood swing from one extreme to another at the drop of a hat?

Take your time to answer, nobody is in a hurry.

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to some questions here, you might shrug it off as a periodic or normal thing. Everybody goes through these things, right? Wrong. The lack of physical activity and self-care could be one reason, but there could be a more serious reason.

The answer (only yes-s) to all of these questions are actually direct symptoms of PCOD, or Polycystic Ovarian Disease. At its best, it can cause the above-mentioned symptoms; at its worst, it can cause infertility. Today, we’re specifically here to learn about the relationship between PCOD and infertility.

What are cysts?

Let’s take things one at a time. So, what exactly are cysts? Cysts are like little bubbles in your body; except instead of air, they’re filled with a fluid-like substance. They can form in all sorts of places, from your skin to your organs. Sometimes, they’re totally harmless and don’t cause any issues at all. Other times, they can be a bit of a pain (literally).

Actually, we’re all familiar with cysts, at least the ones that form on our skin. For instance, you know those small, yellowish bumps that are sore or tender to the touch and form under your toes after a day of long walking? Yeah, those are cysts. Now these cysts can also form on your ovaries.

What is Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD)?

“Poly” means many, so when we say polycystic ovaries, we’re talking about a bunch of cysts hanging out in the ovaries. These cysts can spell a lot of trouble for you.

See, the ovaries usually produce hormones called estrogen and progestogen during the menstrual cycle. But when there are too many cysts around, they start pumping out more androgen – a male hormone also present in women in small amounts – instead of estrogen. And this surge of androgen can cause some interesting changes, such as hair growth in places you wouldn’t normally expect – like your face or chest.

But the biggest concern for those diagnosed with PCOD problem in women is fertility, which can feel like a gut-punch to women in India – a country where fertility is so highly valued.

PCOD and infertility

In a country such as ours, a woman’s worth and status are still largely defined by her ability to bear children. When a woman is unable to conceive, it can lead to a range of negative social consequences, from being ostracized and stigmatized to facing pressure to divorce or even commit suicide. In some cases, infertility is seen as a curse or punishment, and women may be blamed or shamed for their condition.

It’s sad, and it’s not fair, but it’s reality.

Normally, during each menstrual cycle, one of the two ovaries will release a mature, ready-to-be-fertilized egg alternatively. But for someone with PCOD, the ovaries will release either immature or partially matured eggs that will go on to develop into cysts. As a result, ovulation may not occur regularly, or it may not occur at all.

When ovulation becomes irregular and unpredictable, it can affect the timing of your menstrual cycle, making it difficult for you to predict when you are most fertile and potentially interfere with your ability to conceive. BUT! It doesn’t mean you can’t conceive; you can! PCOD makes it harder for you to conceive, not impossible.

How is PCOD diagnosed?

Once you’ve reached out to your doctor, the diagnosis of PCOD can proceed in the following ways:

  • Medical history review: Your doctor will start with asking about your menstrual cycle, symptoms you have been experiencing, your medical history, and any family history of PCOD.
  • Physical examination: A physical examination will also be performed to check for signs and symptoms of PCOD problem in females, such as acne, hair loss, weight gain, and irregular periods. Your doctor may also perform a pelvic exam to check for any abnormalities.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may also order a blood test to measure hormone levels, including testosterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and prolactin. An abnormal hormonal profile can help in the diagnosis of PCOD.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the ovaries may be performed to look for the presence of multiple cysts.

PCOD is diagnosed when at least two out of three criteria are met: irregular periods, high levels of male hormones, and polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound.

With the PCOD diagnosis, a treatment plan is prepared to cure PCOD and help you conceive.

Treatment of PCOD problem in females

PCOD & infertility

There is no cure for PCOD, but a change in your lifestyle can greatly improve your condition. The major factors that can cause PCOD are:

  • Unmanaged stress and anxiety
  • Contact with toxins, plastics, pesticides, cosmetics, etc.
  • Insulin resistance

And by change in lifestyle, we mean:

Also avoid dairy products, red meat, junk and processed foods, and foods rich in carbohydrates. Ask your doctor for even more specific directions like how many meals to eat in a day, portion of the meals, what goes in the meal, etc.

  • Eating healthy: Consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, antioxidant-rich foods, fatty fish, and protein-rich foods and drink lots of water.
    Also avoid dairy products, red meat, junk and processed foods, and foods rich in carbohydrates. Ask your doctor for even more specific directions like how many meals to eat in a day, portion of the meals, what goes in the meal, etc.
  • Avoiding toxins: Use steel or glass containers instead of plastics ones. Avoid coming in contact with pesticides. And avoid foods that’ve been manufactured with artificial flavors, artificial colors, and preservatives.
  • Exercising daily: Allow yourself to enjoy some kind of physical activity every day. Go for walks, jogs, yoga, aerobics; anything.
  • Manage stress: Now we understand that stress can’t be avoided, but it can be released or managed in many ways! For some it’s meditation, for others it’s sleep, for many it’s their hobby; find the one that works for you.

Your doctor may also prescribe medications to regulate your menstrual cycle, regulate insulin levels, stimulate ovulation, and to deal with symptoms of PCOD such as acne and abnormal hair growth.

If none of the above works and you’re still unable to conceive after many attempts, your doctor might recommend surgery to either remove cysts or to reduce testosterone levels and encourage ovulation and hence, fertility.

PCOD can negatively affect fertility, but it’s not the end of the world. With proper treatment, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, women with PCOD can lead happy and fulfilling lives, including motherhood. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are resources available to help manage PCOD symptoms and improve fertility. Don’t give up hope, stay positive, and take one step at a time towards a healthier and happier future. See ya!

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