Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, better known as PCOS, is a common hormonal disorder that affects a woman’s chances of having a baby. According to the National University Hospital Women’s Centre website, it is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age and affects about 10 per cent of women in this age group.
“Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common hormonal problems affecting young women,” explains Dr Loh Seong Feei, senior consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and medical director at Thomson Fertility Centre.
“It is a condition where the ovaries are enlarged with multiple small cysts in them and/or there is an excess of male hormones in the body. Most of the time, the affected women will have problems with ovulation,” he adds.
PCOC is easily diagnosed through an ultrasound examination, which will show multiple small cysts in the ovaries. Your doctor will also do blood tests to check your hormone levels. “Hormonal blood tests will show an imbalance in follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinising hormones (LH) hormones, as well as sometimes an elevated level of male hormones,” says Dr Loh.
According to Dr Seng Shay Way, specialist in Obstetrician and Gynaecology, and consultant at the Raffles Women’s Centre in Raffles Hospital, women need to be diagnosed with two of the following three conditions before they are said to have PCOS:
- Irregular periods. This is the most common characteristic. Examples include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days; fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to menstruate for four months or longer; and prolonged periods that may be scant or heavy.
- Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens) may result in physical signs such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), adult acne or severe adolescent acne, and male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia).
- Polycystic ovaries. Polycystic ovaries become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs which surround the eggs.