Androgens are sometimes called "male hormones." Men have very high levels of androgens, which are responsible for male body changes like hair growth and muscle mass. In women, androgens are necessary to make estrogen. Women with PCOS have androgen levels in the "high normal" range (for women). The additional androgen in these women can cause excessive hair growth and acne.
The good, if not great, news is that the latest advances in infertility treatment have made it possible for more people than ever before to become parents. The bad news is that growing numbers of couples may be jumping the gun and seeking infertility treatments without giving Mother Nature a chance. Infertility treatments, such as drugs that stimulate ovulation, are not without their risks -- namely a risk of multiple pregnancies, which can be dangerous for moms and babies.
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Excess androgen production also leads to irregular or absent ovulation, which women experience as irregular or absent menstrual periods. Because of the problems with ovulation, women with PCOS may have difficulty becoming pregnant.
The causes of PCOS are not completely understood, but it is likely an inherited condition.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Women with PCOS can have a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms, from very mild to severe. They may include:
Irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Heavy vaginal bleeding; ovaries make progesterone for two weeks following ovulation. At the end of that two weeks, the progesterone level drops and the lining of the uterus sheds. This is a normal period. If a woman does not ovulate, she will not make progesterone. The lining of the uterus can become thick, the cells making up the lining can become crowded (a condition known as hyperplasia, which can lead to uterine cancer), and the woman can experience very heavy and prolonged bleeding.