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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Q&A with Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Q&A with Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah

Shruthi Mahalingaiah, MD, a member of the OBGYN department’s reproductive endocrinology and infertility team, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a disease that affects teenage and adult women. We sat down with Dr. Mahalingaiah and asked her to explain this common condition further. 

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a common hormonal condition that affects girls and women of reproductive age. The syndrome is characterized by irregular periods, and increased androgens (male hormones), and some women may have multiple cysts on the ovaries. Symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, unwanted changes in appearance (hair loss from the scalp, hair growth on the face, chest, back, stomach, thumbs, or toes, acne, oily skin, weight gain), and fertility problems (difficulty getting pregnant or repeat miscarriages). 

Who gets PCOS?

Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk for PCOS. Your risk for PCOS is higher if you are overweight, if another woman in your family has been diagnosed with PCOS, or if you have a family history of diabetes. 

How is PCOS treated?

Diagnosing and treating PCOS early is important. If left untreated, it can lead to other health problems across a woman’s lifetime, such as diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. While there is no cure for PCOS, you can manage your symptoms. Diet and lifestyle changes are a mainstay of treatment form many women with PCOS. Medications prescribed by your doctor can help with symptoms. Hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, shot, vaginal ring or IUD) can help to make your menstrual cycle more regular, improve acne and reduce unwanted body/facial hair. Other steps to help with symptoms include losing weight and removing hair with creams or laser hair removal.

If I have PCOS, can I still get pregnant?

Yes! Having PCOS does not mean you cannot have a baby. PCOS is a very common, but treatable, cause of infertility in women. Talk with your doctor about ways to raise your chance of getting pregnant and optimizing your health before, during, and after pregnancy. 

To learn more about treatment of PCOS, please visit the Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility page or call 617.414.2000. To learn more about treatment of PCOS in pediatric or adolescent patients, call 614.414.4841.