One in every five women in India is diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), according to a 2015 report by Metropolis Healthcare. PCOS is increasingly seen among women in their prime child bearing age, which is considered between 15 and 30, as per the report. And yet a lot of women continue to remain undiagnosed mainly due to lack of awareness.
What is PCOS? What are the symptoms?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges, leading to irregular or no period and production of excess male hormone. Apart from an irregular menstrual cycle, other symptoms include excess facial hair, weight gain, thinning of scalp hair and acne.
Why is PCOS so common among women in India?
While speaking at Karan Johar’s chat show, Kedarnath actress Sara Ali Khan revealed her battle with PCOS. “I was 96 kg, and I had PCOD. Because of that, I put on the amount of weight that I did. And it made it very hard for me to lose weight,” she said.
PCOS is genetic and is likely to occur when the woman’s family has a history of diabetes. Fertility physician Dr Shweta Goswami explained to Express Parenting, “A woman is likely to have PCOS if there is a history of diabetes in the family, and we all know how more and more people are getting diagnosed with diabetes in the country.”
Again, stress, sedentary lifestyles and irregular work schedules also increase the chance of having PCOS. “Whether it is diabetes or PCOS, both are mainly lifestyle diseases and have a lot to do with the environment in which people are living now. PCOS is obviously an urban disease which has to do with our lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet rich in carbohydrates and fats, apart from the genetic tendency. A high BMI (Body mass index or the measure of body fat in adults) predisposes you to develop all the symptoms of PCOS,” said Dr Goswami.
Can PCOS affect fertility?
A typical way conception would happen is that you will have a normal ovulatory cycle, where the egg starts forming at the start of a menstrual cycle. By Day 13-14, the egg will be released from the ovary and that’s when if you try conceiving, pregnancy might be possible.
PCOS, however, leads to a lot of hormonal imbalances in the body. “With the BMI going up, we have some hormone changes going on at the level of the ovary as well. There is deficient egg development in the body. In case of PCOS, there is either delayed or no egg development or the egg development is not in sync with the development at the level of the uterus. And all of these lead to difficulty in conception and an increased risk of miscarriage,” explained Dr Goswami.
PCOS is emerging as one of the major causes of infertility among women, which is why it needs to diagnosed and treated.
How to treat PCOS?
Dr Goswami suggested, “About 50 per cent of treatment involves lifestyle modification. It is important to start exercising well, eat healthy and reduce stress. Women in India also tend to put on abdominal fat, which causes hormonal imbalance. So, women need to lose abdominal fat.”
And how do we regulate the ovulatory cycle? “If a woman diagnosed with PCOS is not planning pregnancy, they can be given hormone and birth-control pills to regularise their cycle. If the main concern is fertility, one needs to start with ovulation induction, that is, give them medication to induce egg formation. If that doesn’t work, one can take injections as well or some advanced treatment options including IVF. That said, most patients of PCOS do not face much of an issue and they won’t be requiring IVF unless their PCOS is very severe. Nearly 70-80 per cent women with PCOS can regulate their ovulatory cycle just through medicines alone, along with an improved lifestyle,” she said.