to 10 percent of women have a reproductive endocrine disorder that can
cause infertility and many of them don’t even know it.
ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of
reproductive age. Women with PCOS produce excessive amounts of
androgens (“male” hormones such as testosterone) in their ovaries,
which may be enlarged with many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs).
“No one knows exactly what causes PCOS,” says Mira Aubuchon, MD,
assistant clinical professor in the University of Cincinnati (UC)
obstetrics and gynecology department. “It’s thought that insulin plays
a role, because diabetes is so prevalent among women with this disease.”
with PCOS often experience irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles,
excessive hair growth, acne, infertility and obesity.
can cause long-term health risks,” says Aubuchon. “Women are at an
increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high
blood pressure and heart disease.”
of ovulation in women with PCOS also results in continuous exposure of
their uterine lining (endometrium) to estrogen, which can cause
excessive thickening and heavy, irregular bleeding. Endometrial cancer
may result because of the continuous stimulation of the uterine lining
by estrogen unopposed by progesterone.
to Aubuchon, patients with PCOS are often simply told to lose weight
and exercise, but are not given any plan or method for doing so. She
points out that patients with PCOS frequently receive fragmented care
with different specialists in various geographic locations with little
or no coordination of care.
Aubuchon is leading a comprehensive program at the St. Luke Hospitals specifically treating women with PCOS. Currently, it is one of only four such programs in the country.
focus of the six-week PCOS program at St. Luke is reproductive health,
nutrition and exercise. Aubuchon treats patients for their reproductive
needs, including fertility, uterine bleeding issues and control of hair
growth. Nutritionists work closely with patients to optimize their
nutrition intake using both individual and group therapy sessions.
Exercise physiologists assess the fitness needs of patients, offer
instruction and supervise them to help them reach their goals.
program is not currently covered by insurance. The actual cost of the
six-week program is $2,200, but patients pay only $225. After six
weeks, the cost is $30 a month.
program allows patients to assume control of their own health,” says
Aubuchon. She hopes it will expand beyond reproductive health,
nutrition and exercise to address other issues caused by PCOS. “If we
can show that these interventions work, perhaps insurance companies
will begin to cover them,” she says.
For more information on PCOS, visit www.netwellness.org, a collaborative health-information Web site staffed by Ohio physicians,
nurses and allied health professionals. For more information on the
PCOS program, please call the Center for Reproductive Health at the St. Luke Hospitals at (859) 212-4687.