PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a natural variation in the genes that control certain hormones in the brain. Because of this variation, in PCOS androgens (masculinizing hormones) are slightly elevated, which can cause acne, high sex drive, and facial hair growth. In addition, the hormones that control ovulation (LH and FSH) can sometimes be balanced in a way that makes ovulation either irregular or not happen at all.
How common is PCOS?
PCOS is very common, and it’s been around for a LONG time - Hippocrates was even writing about it 2,400 years ago! In fact, PCOS is one of the most common sexual variations in people assigned female at birth. It’s common in cis-hetero women and especially common in LGBTQ+ people.
How common? In one study that looked at cis-gender women presenting to a clinic for fertility support, 14% of straight women and 38% of lesbian/queer-identified women had PCOS.
Are There Any Benefits to PCOS?
For masculine-of center and nonbinary people, PCOS can support an androgynous appearance or even help with secondary sex changes during testosterone therapy. And for people who are not trying to get pregnant, PCOS can result in fewer menstrual cycles, or a longer time between cycles. For many people this is seen as a huge benefit.
But… How Can PCOS Affect Your Fertility?
Because PCOS can stop your body from ovulating, it can make getting pregnant at home or via IUI difficult, as ovulation can be hard to predict (or not happen at all, even if you have a period).
When PCOS goes untreated, it can result in poor egg quality and can also cause insulin resistance, which elevates insulin levels in the body. High insulin is toxic to a brand new embryo, and even if someone with PCOS does get pregnant, this can cause a miscarriage.
To Sum it Up
Because of changes in ovulation and insulin levels, PCOS can be a major barrier for people trying to get pregnant or do reciprocal IVF. But don’t lose hope! Because we’ve known about PCOS for so long, we have TONS of ways to treat it - from hormone balancing herbs to oocyte-nourishing amino acids and carbohydrates. We also have excellent treatments for high insulin levels, including dietary changes, medications, herbs, and specific nutrients.