Pregnancy is an important and most cherished phase in every woman's life. It is an ecstatic jubilant adventure. For some, this adventure turns out to be a piece of cake whereas for others it might be as difficult as nailing jelly to the wall. The reasons for difficult pregnancy could be one reason or a combination of reasons. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (or PCOS) could also be one of such reasons.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS)?
PCOS, also called as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is a hormonal imbalance in women. It is characterized by overproduction of male hormones in women.
Women with proper menstrual cycles release eggs every month. These eggs are grown in the ovaries which are inside the follicles. When the egg reaches its maturity, the ovulation occurs. During the ovulation process, the follicles which contain ovaries break open and releases the eggs. For women with PCOS, the overproduced testosterone interferes with the normal ovulation process. The tiny fluid-filled follicles don’t burst open - causing the ovaries to remain inside as cysts. This is why it is called polycystic ovarian syndrome which causes irregular or absence of periods.
PCOS could be caused due to various reasons:
* Inherited genetically. If your mother or any of the close relatives are known to have suffered from PCOS, there is higher chance that you could get it too.
* Excess insulin. If your body has excess of insulin and your has a problem in utilizing it properly, it could affect the ovarian function. This could also be a reason for your irregular periods or absent periods.
* Being overweight or obese. Overweight or obese people tend to have PCOS. Women suffering from PCOS tend to be overweight. So, it is unsure what causes what first. In any case, we could consider obesity as one of the causes of PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS are:
- irregular menstrual periods
- poly-cysts on ovaries
- excessive weight gain and hair growth on face, body, etc
- insulin resistance
- thinning or balding head hair.
How does PCOS affect pregnancy - causing complications during delivery?
1. Miscarriage or early loss of pregnancy: Miscarriage occurs usually is in the first 20 weeks of the gestation period. Women suffering from PCOS are three times more likely to suffer from a miscarriage than women without any such health issues. Some research indicates that a drug called metformin could reduce the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women with PCOS. Even then, there is no confirmed evidence yet regarding this and further research needs to be done.
2. Gestational diabetes: Another major problems pregnant women with PCOS encounter with miscarriage is gestational diabetes. It is a type of diabetes caused due to high blood sugar level in pregnant women - usually disappearing by itself after the childbirth. This form of diabetes appears near the end of pregnancy (i.e. the 3rd trimester). Yet, for women with PCOS, it could appear a little early (as early as the first trimester). Although it is treatable and could be controlled, the women with gestational diabetes could have a very large baby with low blood sugar and trouble with breathing. This could lead to C-section during delivery. Also, the children of women with gestational diabetes could be at higher risk of diabetes 2 at the later stages of their life.
3. Preeclampsia: It is a pregnancy complication caused by the onset of high blood pressure and proteins in the urine.This makes the process altogether more complicated for mother and the baby - carrying additional risks. Preeclampsia usually occurs after the 20th week and is a sign of damage in an organic system. This could most often include the mother’s kidney, liver or brain. If the preeclampsia is left untreated, it could lead to eclampsia. Eclampsia is a stage where the organ could be damaged entirely - causing seizures or even death. The primary treatment for this condition is delivering the baby, even preterm if necessary. The method to deliver the baby from a mother suffering from preeclampsia is by C-section.
4. Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure: This condition might occur in the second half of pregnancy and is caused due to increase in blood pressure. It could lead to preeclampsia and affect the delivery process.
5. Preterm birth: The normal pregnancy period is anywhere between 37 weeks to 42 weeks. Birth of infants before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered as “preterm birth”. These infants are at a higher risk of health problems after birth and at later stages in life.
6. C-section or Cesarean delivery: There is a high probability that pregnant women suffering from PCOS will have to undergo cesarean section because of the pregnancy complications they are facing. This includes pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
Of course, with PCOS, pregnancy might be a difficult one. Even then - it is not impossible. Just like you could take precautions for other diseases, you could do the same for this too and lower the risk of developing complications. Maintain a healthy weight prior to pregnancy and blood sugar level - taking folic acids. These measures could save you from complications and make you have a happy pregnancy!
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