Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS), also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is an endocrine system disorder that affects women of reproductive age. The disease is associated with some major adverse health issues including infertility, diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increase risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes), cardiovascular issues and endometrial carcinoma. Because, according to Okamura et al., those with PCOS share risk factors for endometrial cancer and atypical endometrial hyperplasia, early detection and treatment are critical for optimal health outcomes. Some of the primary shared risk factors include obesity, not bearing any children (nulliparity), infertility, hypertension, diabetes, chronic anovulation, and unopposed estrogen supplementation.
One study (Malcolm2017) that addressed reproductive health comparisons among young women with and without PCOS found that although women diagnosed with PCOS had significant concerns about their reproductive health, they were found to be as sexually active as young women without PCOS. Unfortunately, women with PCOS were more likely to have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which could increase the risk of infertility. In this study, the importance of counseling in safe sex practices such as condom use and sexually transmitted infection screening was highlighted.
As weight loss in women diagnosed with PCOS has been shown to improve blood sugar levels, exercise and healthy weight management strategies can also be keystones of care. Vasheghani-Farahani et al report on a home-based exercise program with positive outcomes in health for women with PCOS. The women in this study were ages 15-40, with 16 patients in the exercise group and 14 in the control group. Blood pressure, waist to hip ratio, BMI, blood tests for insulin factors, sex hormones, and markers of inflammation made up outcomes measures at baseline and again at 12 weeks following intervention. The active group completed aerobic and strengthening exercises and were found to have an improved waist to hip ratio as well as reductions in cardiovascular risk profiles.
The exercise instructed as home program is as follows: 30 minute walk at least 5 days per week at medium intensity (64%-76% max heart rate), strengthening exercises of biceps curl, wall push up, chair push up, single arm row, seated lower leg lift, seated straight leg lift, stair step and chair squat 10 times each. The participants were instructed to increase the exercise bouts per day from 1 to 3 by the end of the study. Participants were guided through the exercises at the beginning of the study, and exercise logs as well as phone calls were used to track progress, answer questions.
This study is an encouraging example of simple yet effective strategies to guide women diagnosed with PCOS. Although there are other equally valuable aspects of care that a pelvic health therapist can be involved in for women managing this challenging disease, the research presented reminds us that basic information on healthy sexual practices and provider follow-up, strengthening and aerobic exercise can have meaningful impact on quality of life. If you are interested in learning more about PCOS and other endocrine conditions, and ways to help manage pelvic pain, adhesions, and other symptoms, join us in Pelvic Floor Series Capstone: Advanced Topics in Pelvic Rehab, available twice more in 2017.
Malcolm, S., Tuchman, L., Cheng, Y. I., Wang, J., & Gomez-Lobo, V. (2017). Differences in Reproductive Health Issues in Adolescent Females With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Compared to Controls. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 30(2), 330-331.
Okamura, Y., Saito, F., Takaishi, K., Motohara, T., Honda, R., Ohba, T., & Katabuchi, H. (2017). Polycystic ovary syndrome: early diagnosis and intervention are necessary for fertility preservation in young women with endometrial cancer under 35 years of age. Reproductive Medicine and Biology, 16(1), 67-71.
Vasheghani-Farahani, F., Khosravi, S., Yekta, A. H. A., Rostami, M., & Mansournia, M. A. (2017). The Effect of Home based Exercise on Treatment of Women with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome; a single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Novelty in Biomedicine, 5(1), 8-15.