New PCOS Research May Offer Hope in Infertility Struggle

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects as many as 5 million women in the U.S. and is known to be the most common reason for infertility.
4:52 | 08/26/15

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Transcript for New PCOS Research May Offer Hope in Infertility Struggle
Now to our series "Baby boom" taking a closer look at the most common reason for infertility affecting 5,000,0 million women in the U.S. The cause is unknown but new research is raising hopes one day there will be a cure for all of those women having trouble getting pregnant. ABC's Deborah Roberts has our story. Reporter: It's a mysterious disease and one of the leading causes of infertility in American women. Called polycystic ovary syndrome or pcos it can be difficult to diagnose let alone treat. It's a disorder that is shockingly underdiagnosed. That's because of lack of awareness in the medical community. Reporter: Symptoms include irregular periods. Excess hair on the face, weight gain and diabetes. Caused in part by high levels of testosterone. Now new hope for those who suffer. An exciting genoiic discovery. We found genes that suggest that maybe the cause is the pituitariary hormones that regulate ovulation as well as the receptors for those hormones in the ovary. Reporter: Clues that will hopefully lead to a cure for women like gale Donnelly. You think you're going crazy but really it's the hormones are going crazy and you're okay. Reporter: She's been struggling with pcos for 20 years, a thin woman until age 27 when she suddenly gained 50 pounds in just six months. It was a huge surprise. I knew something was going wrong. I knew it and I kept going to doctors. Reporter: It took ten years and two surgeries before a new doctor finally figured out gale had pcos and when she wanted a baby she had trouble getting pregnant. We actually had to go through doctors and levels and two rounds of ivf before we had our first one. Reporter: But hers is a success story. Gale's health is under control and with a little help from a fertility doctor, she has a family and has an important piece of advice for others. Don't give up. Just don't give up. Reporter: For "Good morning America," Deborah Roberts, ABC news, New York. We do love that advice, don't give up. Here to help with that is Dr. Jennifer Ashton. This new research may be giving a glimpse into what is going on inside people with pcos. Can you explain that? Yeah, we call this in medicine especially in ob/gyn the most common but least well understood hormonal condition affecting women so this is major. The way I describe it to patients is, think of your hormones as instead of whispering their communication, shouting it with a bull horn and let me show you what I mean by that. Normally in a Normal reproductive woman two signals, lh and fsh that talk to the ovaries and stimulate them to produce systemically one egg at a time and also produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. In pcos you still have the signals but it's being communicated with a bull horn so have an imbalance. More lh. Less fhs. When that hits the ovaries you have an overactivity and a lot of follicles and eggs being produced and more estrogen, more male sex hormones including testosterone and can be a huge problem. Delicate balance. Talk to us about signs and Simms. Let's start with things we might be able to see. If you look at an ovary, this is an actual ultrasound. In pcos you see a string of pearls appearance, eggs lined up along the outside of the ovary, but they don't get released. Then if you look at the woman head to toe, we can see things starting like male pattern baldness, thinning hair, facial acne, acne on the back and chest and a woman is usually hormonal. It's not due to sweat or overexercise and we have to remember with pcos part of it is reproductive and it affects the pancreas, increase insulin resistance and irregular periods and irregular ovulation can be a big problem for a woman trying to conceive. Absolutely. Okay, so no cure known but there are ways that we can treat this. There's a mention new of treatment options and probably the biggest three that we talk about, if you're not trying to get pregnant the gold standard is a low dose birth control pill that regulates these hormone levels. For women trying to get pregnant, all the talk in the specialty about is letrozole, metformi in and clomid. And dietary behavior? Losing 5% of body weight while it's hard can make a big difference. This is a very hard condition to treat. A lot of people affected by it. We know you have questions. Dr. Ashton will take them throughout the morning. Just tweet her @drjashton. New research finds a link

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