Patient Resources

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that commonly causes infertility in women because the hormones that affect the reproductive system are abnormal, leading to irregular or absent ovulation. According to the CDC, PCOS affects 6% to 12% of women in the United States who are of reproductive age, which is as many as 5 million people. This life-long condition not only affects women in their child-bearing years, but can also lead to other serious health problems down the road, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and strokes. There are several symptoms and signs that a woman might have PCOS, but they vary, and women can experience it differently. Since PCOS does not present itself in the same way for everyone affected, NCCRM fertility center Raleigh wants to help you get a better understanding of the disorder, including the diagnostic criteria, possible causes, and concerns that affected women may have when trying to get pregnant.


There is a long list of common signs and symptoms of PCOS, but the most commonly used diagnostic criteria require two out of three of the following:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles, which are caused by chronic anovulation.
  • Blood test confirmation or outward signs of high levels of androgens, which can lead to abnormal hair growth and acne.
  • Presence of polycystic ovaries that can only be seen by an ultrasound examination.

Once any other potential causes of anovulation or high androgen levels have been ruled out, your doctor at NCCRM fertility center Raleigh will order blood work to check levels of hormones, blood sugar for insulin resistance, and lipids. A transvaginal ultrasound will also likely be performed to see if the ovaries appear to be polycystic. If you haven’t provided it already, your doctor will need detailed information about how regular your period is and any unwanted hair growth you may be experiencing, as well as your family’s complete medical history since genetics do play a role in the disorder.


Though the exact cause of PCOS is not known, experts at the NCCRM fertility center in Raleigh think that several factors, including genetics, can play a role. As previously mentioned, family history is the first concern. If a woman’s mother or sister has PCOS, then she is more likely to develop the condition. High levels of androgens are also a common finding with PCOS, which leads to acne and abnormal hair growth. While androgens are found in both men and women, they are considered to be primarily male hormones. Women with PCOS frequently have insulin resistance as well, meaning their bodies do not respond appropriately to insulin. The risk of insulin resistance runs higher if you are over 40, overweight, have high blood pressure, live a sedentary lifestyle, and have high cholesterol. Women with PCOS often have polycystic ovaries but no other signs of the condition, making it difficult to diagnose.

Getting Pregnant With PCOS

There is no cure for PCOS, but there are treatments available to address its symptoms and complications. Medications can be used to help regulate menstruation, while lifestyle remedies, like weight loss or routine exercise, can help reduce related risks like metabolic syndrome. Since it leads to problems with ovulation, higher risks of miscarriage, and infertility, it is important that you contact NCCRM fertility center Raleigh if you think you may be showing signs of PCOS. Our team specializes in fertility testing, diagnosis, and treatment of infertility conditions. We’re experts in IVF, Tubal Ligation Reversal, Male Infertility, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Gestation Surrogacy, Family Balancing, and more. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

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