Did you know that gay women could be at a higher risk for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women worldwide?

What is PCOS?

While the cause is still unknown, the main underlying problem of PCOS is a hormone imbalance from the ovaries making too many androgens (male hormones) than they are supposed to.  High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.  Researchers also believe that insulin (a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store) is also linked to PCOS.  It is common for women who have PCOS to have increased levels of insulin which appears to also increase the production of androgen.

Why Are Gay Women More at Risk?

A 2004 study showed that a large majority of lesbians seeking fertility treatments suffered either solely from polycystic ovaries (ovaries with attached, fluid-filled cysts or sacs), or from one or more symptoms associated with full-blown PCOS. Though it should be noted, that PCOS can be without symptoms. Women with PCOS may experience symptoms that can include:

  • Infertility *PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.
  • Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
  • Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • Pelvic pain
  • Skin tags (excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anxiety or depression

Of the 618 women examined in the study, 254 were lesbian and 364 were heterosexual.  Before attending the clinic, the women were not aware they had PCOS, but 15% had been previously treated for symptoms relating to PCOS.

The study involved a pelvic ultrasound on the second or third day of the women’s menstrual cycle, and blood samples were taken to measure levels of reproductive hormones.  The researchers found the prevalence of polycystic ovaries in 80% of the gay women examined, while only 32% of heterosexual women had the disorder.  Shockingly, full-blown PCOS was found in 14% of heterosexual women and 38% of lesbians!

Dr. Rita Agrawal, head researcher for the study, stated that the high levels of PCOS among gay women meant that “doctors should be on the lookout for its telltale signs among their lesbian patients in order to make sure their wider health is not at risk.  We observed a significantly higher prevalence of polycystic ovaries/PCOS in lesbians compared with heterosexual women.  Our initial results are also suggestive of a significantly greater hyperandrogenism (when the ovaries produce excessive androgens aka male hormones) in lesbians compared with heterosexual women.”

Do you suffer from symptoms relating to PCOS?  Please call CT Fertility today at 914-251-4151 or email ctfertilityinfo@integramed.com for more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our top surrogacy and fertility specialists in Connecticut.

Resources: http://www.pcosaa.org/, https://pcos.com/pcos-and-lesbians/