Tips for PCO Syndrome and Unfulfilled Desire to Have Children

The PCO syndrome can lead to menstrual disorders, hair loss, and infertility in women. Antidotes are medication and an adapted diet.

The hair on the head falls out, but it grows in uncomfortable places, the body becomes more masculine, acne occurs, and the desire to have children remains unfulfilled: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCO syndrome for short, is one of the most common causes of infertility. And this is not the only reason why it is a psychological burden for those affected.

It is assumed that one million women in Germany are affected – between five and ten percent of all women of childbearing age suffer from this hormone disease. The eponymous “cysts” in the ovaries (ovaries) are actually none at all. The small sacs that can be seen on the ultrasound are immature eggs. And only 70 percent of affected women have this symptom at all. PCO syndrome is a disorder in the hormonal control system in women. Male hormones are overproduced, which is why PCO syndrome is associated with male body hair and a male status for many sufferers.

The cause of PCOS is unclear, obesity is often a factor

How the disease develops is not clear. What is certain is that genes play a part: women who are affected often have mothers with PCO syndrome or fathers who went bald early for hormonal reasons. The connection between the syndrome and body weight is also striking: three out of four sufferers are overweight. Most women, even those of normal weight, also suffer from insulin resistance: their cells no longer respond to the hormonal signal from insulin to absorb sugar from the blood – the blood sugar level rises. The body then produces more and more insulin. Therefore, women with PCO syndrome have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. Insulin resistance, in turn, promotes obesity because the hormone causes the body to store more and more energy, and it also promotes the production of male hormones – a vicious circle. If the sensitive interplay of hormones in the female body is disturbed, the PCO syndrome can cause infertility.

Symptoms of PCO Syndrome

The following symptoms can occur in different degrees of severity in PCO syndrome:

  • irregular or no menstrual periods
  • Hair loss, similar to men (receding hairline, bald head)
  • oily skin, acne – even after puberty
  • Hair growth on thighs, stomach, chest, back, chin, and cheeks
  • dark skin discoloration on the neck, neck, under the breasts, or armpits
  • infertility
  • overweight

The physical complaints often have a significant impact on the psyche of those affected.

After menopause, the symptoms decrease significantly for many.

PCO syndrome: blood tests important for the diagnosis

The gynecologist will ask about your medical history, do a physical exam evaluating your skin and body hair, and do an ultrasound of the ovaries. Extensive blood tests are necessary to determine the hormone status and rule out diseases of the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland: for male hormones, female (cycle) hormones, and the anti-Müllerian hormone, which is often elevated in those affected. Because more profound metabolic changes are associated with the PCO syndrome, the blood lipid levels are also determined and, if necessary, a glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is carried out. In addition, an examination of the thyroid hormones is advisable, since about every third person affected also suffers from an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland, the so-called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Just like the PCO syndrome itself, this hypothyroidism can be the cause of an unfulfilled desire to have children.

Therapy: Diet helps to regulate hormones

Even if the disease cannot be cured, the symptoms can be significantly alleviated. If you are overweight, losing weight alone often brings about a significant improvement. However, losing weight is often difficult for those affected due to the disturbed hormone constellation.

A change in lifestyle and eating habits helps to regulate the disturbed hormone balance again. Because when the muscles are active and the hormone-producing abdominal fat, in particular, melts away, the cells react better to insulin, and the blood sugar level drops – and with it the production of male hormones. White flour products and sweets, in particular, should therefore be avoided as far as possible. Instead, more vegetables, whole grains, and filling protein belong on the menu, combined with oils containing omega-3 such as walnut or linseed oil.

Diabetes medication in PCO syndrome

If insulin resistance is proven, treatment with oral diabetes medication such as metformin may be indicated, at least temporarily, in addition to nutritional therapy. This improves the problems with the sugar metabolism, but possibly also the cycle disorders and other symptoms.

If the desire to have children is unfulfilled, the doctor can also prescribe medication that stimulates the ovaries and promotes ovulation (clomiphene). If there is no desire to have children, the cycle can be stabilized with the help of the birth control pill. It prevents ovulation, and some preparations also have an anti-androgenic effect, i.e. reduce the influence of male hormones, so that hair loss, beard growth, and acne decrease.

For many of those affected, their emotional needs weigh even more heavily than their physical problems. Medical treatment may also be necessary here if talking to other people affected does not help.

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