One of the most common diagnoses given to women who are having difficulty getting pregnant is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.
Unlike a proper "disease," PCOS is a syndrome - meaning it is a collection of symptoms without a well understood common mechanism of action.
The fact is I have had many RE's (Reprpoductive Endocrinologists, the people who perform IVF and IUI) tell me plainly that it is a "wastebasket diagnosis." In other words, this is what they tell you is wrong when they don't really know what is wrong.
Now that said, it is still true that many women who have trouble getting pregnant do experience these symptoms:
- Irregular or infrequent periods
- No ovulation or cervical mucous
- Cysts on the ovaries (these can be seen in a doctor's office with a sonogram)
- Increased hair growth (including on the face or chest)
- Thinning hair on the head
- Acne or oily skin
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
Looking at the list of symptoms, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome sounds really serious! It's no wonder why many women sink into depression on getting the news from their doctor.
The main problem here is that, as I said, a syndrome like this is really just a collection of symptoms. You do not ned to have all (or even most) of these in order to be diagnosed.
For example, if you are having trouble getting pregnant, have irregular periods, weight gain, and sleep apnea... your doctor may diagnose you with PCOS. But there are a million other reasons to explain those symptoms! And since the treatment options are very limited (basically it just means you start taking fertility drugs to get pregnant), it is in every woman's interest to find out more and exercise some critical thinking before just doing what the doctor tells you.
A Quick Word on Cysts
Many women who come to City Acupuncture for fertility support have already been to a Gynecologist or RE and have been diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovaries. When we tell them that it is a wastebasket diagnosis, they say they believe the doctor is right because they saw a sonogram that showed cysts on the ovaries.
I will not venture to guess why many Gynecologists and REs fail to explain this, but the fact is ALL women have cysts on their ovaries. It is necessary for the reproductive cycle, and you would never ovulate if your ovaries did not produce cysts. It is in the cysts that eggs are made, as well as the main hormones of reproduction, estrogen and progesterone. Again, you could not have a normal cycle if you did not produce cysts on your ovaries.
And as far as how many cysts were shown... this is also immaterial. The normal process is for multiple cysts to grow, until one or two become dominant. These dominant cysts grow larger than the rest, and eventually these are the ones that "pop," rel;easing the egg during ovulation. Depending on where you are in your cycle when the sonogram took place, it would be completely normal to see 5 - 8 cysts on a healthy ovary.
If you'd like to learn more about PCOS, or to understand it better from an acupuncture point of view...