What is the best piece of advice for women looking to maintain their health? “Get more sleep”, and “don’t apply mascara while driving” are a good start. Buzzfeed has an even more extensive (and hilarious) list of the latest health trends here. Staying healthy — whether with the current fads or a more traditional approach — is a topic that’s relevant to just about everyone. Although managing one’s health is essential for all individuals, a healthy lifestyle may be more important for some than for others. Believe it or not, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are part of the treatment plan for one of the most common causes of infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that affects as many as 5 million women in the United States. Beyond fertility, PCOS can also predispose a woman to irregular menstrual cycles, unbalanced hormone levels, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and increased acne and hair growth. The cause of PCOS is still unclear, but most experts think that several factors, including genetics, could play a role.

The name polycystic ovary syndrome comes from one of the hallmark symptoms of the condition — ovarian cysts. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs that house all of a woman’s eggs. Typically, eggs mature in the ovaries and then are released into the uterus where they can be fertilized and lead to a pregnancy. In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn’t make all of the hormones needed for an egg to fully mature. Thus, the eggs are never released into the uterus; instead, they remain in the ovaries and often develop into cysts, a closed pocket of tissue filled with fluid.

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS; however, a physician can perform a variety of exams to see if PCOS, or something else, is causing a woman’s symptoms.  Although there is no cure for PCOS, it can be effectively managed to prevent problems and to treat infertility.  If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, you can connect with other “cysters” for support in making healthy lifestyle changes that could make all the difference. A few great places to connect are:

  • PCOS Awareness Association blog – You will find tips, recipes, and reflections on life with PCOS
  • PCOS Challenge Site – This site offers support through television, radio programming, educational workshops and online and offline support networks to help women overcome their struggles with infertility, weight gain, anxiety and depression and reduce their risk for life-threatening related diseases
  • Resolve, the National Infertility Association Site – This site has tons of resources on many conditions related to infertility including PCOS but also gives you information on support groups near you.
  • For additional information about PCOS, you can also check out WomensHealth.gov and Hormone.org.