PCOS and Hormones:
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know that 1 in 10 women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in their childbearing years? Once you develop PCOS, you may experience metabolism problems and hormonal imbalances. When left untreated, this condition may affect your appearance and overall health.
Understanding how PCOS and hormones relate is crucial if you’re suffering or have someone suffering from this disorder. Your body is likely to produce abnormally high levels of male hormones. You may also experience fertility problems and delayed menstrual periods.
You wouldn’t want to develop long-term health conditions like heart disease and diabetes from an untreated case of PCOS. We prepared this guide to help you understand how this disorder affects hormones. Here are the FAQs and answers you should know about PCOS.
1. What Hormone Imbalances Occur With PCOS?
PCOS can destabilize your reproductive hormones, thus interfering with your reproductive health. You may develop sudden issues with your ovaries or risk being infertile. The hormone imbalances that occur with PCOS include the following:
Raised Levels of Testosterone
Though it's a male sex hormone, testosterone is also produced in the ovaries in low amounts. When combined with the female sex hormone (estrogen), it boosts bone mass. It also helps grow, maintain and repair reproductive tissues in women.
Some women suffering from PCOS have high testosterone hormones. With increased male sex hormones in the body, you may have problems during menstruation and ovulation.
High testosterone levels in women may cause frontal balding and deepen the voice. Other effects of elevated levels of this hormone include increased muscle mass, enlarged clitoris, and acne.
Your doctor should carry out a physical exam and assess your symptoms to determine whether hormone tests are necessary. The hormone tests are important if you've started developing male sexual characteristics and have PCOS. If the test reveals abnormal testosterone levels, your physician will prescribe natural treatments for PCOS.
Raised Levels of Luteinising Hormone (LH)
LH is a chemical secreted by the pituitary gland during a menstrual cycle. This hormone stimulates the ovaries to release more eggs, unlike in men, where it boosts testosterone production.
Your body may secrete high levels of luteinizing hormone, which may lead to ovulation problems. Increased LH levels cause a spike in androgens like testosterone and limit egg development. You may also have low levels of progesterone hormone, which controls menstrual periods.
One sure way to know whether you have high luteinizing hormone levels in your bloodstream is to schedule a medical test. The test will help you figure out whether the symptoms you're experiencing are due to a spike in LH levels.
High levels of luteinizing hormone in the blood can help you determine the point in your menstrual cycle when it's ideal to conceive. However, if the LH levels are abnormally high, it may suggest that you have PCOS. It might also be a sign of pituitary gland disorder.
Low Levels Of Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG)
PCOS may cause a reduction in sex hormone-binding globulin in your body. SHGB can make your body develop resistance to insulin and affect your blood sugar levels.
Your liver produces SHGB as a protein to transport estrogen and androgens in the blood. The brain, placenta, and uterus also produce this protein in low amounts to reduce the circulation of free hormones. When SHBG levels in your body are down, levels of free hormones like testosterone increase.
Due to the high testosterone levels, your breast size may reduce, the voice may deepen, and muscle mass may increase. You may also experience sudden changes in mood, low libido, and irregular menstrual cycles.
Raised Levels of Prolactin
As a pituitary hormone, prolactin boosts and sustains milk production in nursing mothers. Women with PCOS have normal prolactin levels below 25 ng/ml.
The hormone makes breasts grow in size and produce more milk after giving birth. Prolactin-inhibiting factors like dopamine control the level of prolactin in the body. Expect prolactin levels to increase during pregnancy to prepare you for lactation.
When you're not breastfeeding or pregnant, prolactin helps stabilize your menstrual cycle. Once you develop PCOS, abnormally high levels of this hormone may interfere with your reproductive health.
Some women with PCOS may have high prolactin levels with or without symptoms. It’s therefore important to get your prolactin levels measured to rule out other health problems.
Symptoms like lack of sex drive and absent, irregular, or infrequent periods may present when suffering from PCOS. Other symptoms include the inability to get pregnant, pain during intercourse, breast milk leakage, and acne. Also, you may experience hot flashes, excess facial and body hair growth, and vaginal dryness.
2. How Does PCOS Cause Hormonal Imbalance?
Once produced in the endocrine glands, hormones travel around the bloodstream to the organs and tissues. These powerful chemicals control most bodily processes, like reproduction and metabolism.
A hormonal imbalance may make your body produce too little or too much of a particular hormone. A slight imbalance can have severe effects on your organs when left untreated.
PCOS is among the health conditions that cause imbalances in women’s hormones. You may be genetically predisposed to getting this condition. Lifestyle conditions like obesity may also put you at risk of polycystic ovary disease.
When suffering from PCOS, you may experience ovulation issues due to imbalances in progesterone hormone. You may also have heavier or irregular menses due to this condition. Without treatment, the menstrual lining in your uterus may thicken and put you at risk of uterine cancer.
3. How Do You Fix Hormonal Imbalances In PCOS?
Most PCOS treatments manage concerns like obesity, acne, or fertility problems. They may also involve medication and lifestyle changes.
Your doctor may encourage you to follow a low-calorie diet and a moderate workout routine. Losing more than 5 percent of your total body mass can help improve the disorder. It may also make the medications recommended for PCOS more effective. For more information read, PCOS and Working Out: Tips To Manage Symptoms.
Medical prescriptions like birth control pills, progestin therapy can regulate your menstrual cycle. When taking a combination of birth control pills, your body will secrete fewer androgens and regulate estrogen. Taking progestin for up to 14 days can treat irregular periods caused by hormonal imbalances in your body.
Medications like clomiphene, letrozole, metformin, and gonadotropins can help you ovulate. Clomiphene is a drug that induces ovulation while letrozole stimulates the ovaries. Your doctor may prescribe metformin to boost insulin resistance or gonadotropins to stimulate ovarian follicle growth.
Interventions like birth control pills, spironolactone, eflornithine, and electrolysis can control excessive hair growth. Both birth control pills and spironolactone limit androgen production, which boosts hair growth.
Eflornithine is a cream for slowing facial hair growth, while electrolysis is a treatment that destroys hair follicles.
4. Can You Have PCOS Without Hormone Imbalance?
Since PCOS is a complex hormonal condition, it's difficult to diagnose it with symptoms alone. Your doctor will recommend an ultrasound to assess your reproductive organs and blood tests for measuring hormone levels. They'll also look at your medical history and your family's to confirm the PCOS diagnosis.
PCOS disrupts levels of hormones like luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone. Other hormones affected by the disorder include progesterone, androstenedione, and prolactin.
It’s possible to have PCOS without hormonal imbalance in your body. That’s because hormone levels vary in women widely. You may have normal levels of hormones in your body while suffering from PCOS.
If you're not experiencing any hormonal imbalances, the doctor will look at other symptoms you have to determine whether you're suffering from PCOS. Note that though you may not have any abnormalities in your hormones, you'll still experience other symptoms that are common with PCOS patients.
Understanding PCOS and Hormonal Imbalance
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects women during their childbearing years. Many women who suffer from this hormonal condition don't know they have it. Though the exact causes of PCOS are unknown, some women are prone to the disorder due to their genes and lifestyle.
PCOS targets women’s reproductive organs and affects the production of progesterone and estrogen. You may experience irregularities in your menstrual cycle and high levels of male hormones known as androgen. PCOS also attacks the ovaries and affects the ovulation process.
When suffering from PCOS, you'll have fluid-filled sacs (cysts) growing in your ovaries. The sacs usually contain immature eggs, which limit your ability to get pregnant. Without ovulation, your LH, FSH, estrogen, and progesterone levels will be altered.
Male hormones in your body will increase when your female hormones are affected by PCOS. As a result, you may develop male secondary sexual characteristics. You may grow facial hair, have a deep voice, or build more muscle.
Need More Help on PCOS and Hormones?
It's no secret that PCOS can disrupt female hormones in the body and cause unwanted physical changes. Understanding the correlation between PCOS and hormones can help you cope with this health condition. We hope that this guide answers any questions you may have about polycystic ovary syndrome.
Count on Knowell’s leading-edge treatments to help you cope with hormonal imbalances. Our platform and products serve women of all age groups at different stages of life. Try the Knowell supplement to optimize reproductive function and boost hormonal balance.