PCOS and Menstruation Problems
Put it all down to hormones. When they're out of balance, then everything goes awry. Hormones are vital to the communication system of the body, supplying information to the various cells in order to produce the chemicals and proteins necessary for the normal function of the body. They are vital to everything in life, so keeping them balanced is critical to smooth operation of the body's systems. And for women, when the reproductive hormones are out of whack, infertility and numerous other issues arise. Fertility hormones are so integral to the reproductive system that even a slight imbalance can change ovulation and fertility.
A woman with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) has a major hormonal imbalance that results in the failure of the ovaries to produce the necessary hormones to keep the menstrual cycle regular. Without regular periods, a woman is unable to ovulate and is therefore infertile.
There are three conditions that are common in women with PCOS:
One, all, or a combination of these situations can affect someone with the syndrome.
PCOS Menstruation Problem: Anovulation
Anovulation essentially means the absence of ovulation. Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary and occurs about midway in the menstrual cycle. If ovulation is irregular but not completely absent, the condition is called oligovulation. Both are kinds of ovulatory dysfunction, which is a factor in close to 40 percent of female infertility.
Women with anovulation have irregular periods or they don't have a period at all. Menstrual cycles that are less than 21 days or longer than 36 days are an indication that there's an ovulatory problem. If menstruation falls between these boundaries but the length of the period varies from month to month, it also can be an indication of ovulation disturbance. When a period occurs and no egg is released from the ovary, it is called anovulation.
Conception is a tricky business. Couples who have no fertility issues only have a 25 percent chance of conceiving every month, which means that even with ovulation there are no guarantees of conception. Anovulation means there is no egg to fertilize, so there will not be conception - period. Irregular ovulation usually means the egg quality is poor and chances of conception are drastically reduced.
The hormonal imbalance that accompanies irregular ovulation can lead to:
· lack of fertile cervical mucus
· endometrium (uterine lining) that is either too thick or too thin
· shortened luteal phase (called luteal phase defect) and low progesterone levels
PCOS Menstruation Problem: Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea is the medical term for the absence of menstrual periods, either temporarily or permanently and it is classified as primary or secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is characterized by no menstruation by age 16 and older, and secondary amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation for three consecutive cycles or a period of six months in a woman who normally menstruated. Missing one period is not considered amenorrhea. Often stress or environmental factors can cause a woman to skip a period.
Amenorrhea is caused by a disorder or disruption of the hormonal levels that regulate menstruation and can result from several different issues, some of which are:
· pregnancy (a natural form of amenorrhea)
· hypothalamic problems
· extreme exercise
· genetic or anatomic condition
· diseases of the pituitary gland
PCOS Menstruation Problem: Oligomenorrhea
Oligomenorrhea refers to irregular or infrequent periods, with intervals of 35 days or more. The duration of the intervals may vary. The word itself means "scanty menstruation" which is the earmark of this condition. Not only does the time between periods extend beyond what would be considered normal, but the flow of blood can last only a day or two - sometimes just hours - and the flow itself can be quite minimal. The cause of oligomenorrhea is estrogen or progesterone imbalance, the trademark of PCOS.
PCOS symptoms vary with the individual. Learn more about the various symptoms of this all-too-common syndrome in this section of our site.