You can still get pregnant with some ovarian disorders. / Tetra images/Getty Images
When it comes to ovarian disorders, there are many misconceptions that can influence diagnosis and treatment. We debunk top myths about three common conditions.
MYTH: There are no early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Many women do experience warning signs, such as bloating or pelvic discomfort. The problem, though, is that these symptoms mimic those of other more common conditions, including digestive and bladder problems. Other signs include abdominal pressure or pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, gas, constipation and urinary changes (having to go urgently or often). Sometimes these symptoms may be more severe when they are caused by ovarian cancer, but not always; and often by the time ovarian cancer is considered a possible cause, it has already spread beyond the ovaries. If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you may be at an increased risk. Age, obesity, never having been pregnant and hormone therapies also factor in. Also, new research suggests that taller, heavier women may be at an increased risk as well.
MYTH: Premature ovarian failure (POF) is essentially early menopause.
Though they share many of the same signs, the two conditions are different. POF is when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before age 40. They no longer produce normal amounts of estrogen or release eggs regularly. Women with POF, though, may have irregular or occasional periods for years and may even become pregnant. Women with premature menopause stop having periods and can’t become pregnant. Missed periods are usually the first (and most common) sign of POF. Some women also experience hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and decreased libido. There is no proven treatment to reverse POF, but there are options that can help relieve some of the symptoms.
MYTH: With polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you can't get pregnant.
It’s true that this disorder is one of the most common causes of infertility, but you may still be able to have a baby. PCOS occurs when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal, causing cysts to develop on the ovaries. (It also can lead to infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne and obesity.) There is no cure for PCOS; treatment is tailored to symptoms, including infertility. If you’re overweight, losing weight (even just 10 to 15 pounds) may be enough to help regulate your menstrual cycle. Your doctor also may prescribe medications to help you ovulate. Talk to your doctor to determine the best plan to increase your chance of pregnancy.