How Often You Should See Your Healthcare Providers If You Have PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, isn’t just an issue with your periods or fertility—it's a complex syndrome that can increase a woman’s risk for some serious complications, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

As such, it's very important to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and see them regularly. But how often is appropriate?

Doctor talking to patient in doctors office

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How Often Should PCOS Patients See a Healthcare Provider?

If issues come up way in advance of your next appointment, don’t hesitate to call the office or schedule a visit. It’s better to handle concerns promptly in case something more serious is going on. As always, make sure to follow the advice of your healthcare provider, and keep the recommended schedule for routine appointments and other testing. Here's a look at the different practitioners that may be a part of your healthcare team.

Primary Care Physician

If you are healthy and don’t have any chronic medical conditions like diabetes, visiting a primary care physician, or PCP, once a year should be sufficient. Due to the risk of developing complications from PCOS, though, it's important to see your PCP annually for a physical.

Your yearly visit should include testing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. If any of these are abnormal, further testing, or more frequent visits, may be warranted.

Once the diagnosis of PCOS is made, your doctor may also consider screening for depression, fatty liver, and obstructive sleep apnea.

It’s also possible that the doctor may ask you to monitor yourself at home, as is most commonly done with high blood pressure and diabetes. Make sure you understand the instructions, including how often and when to test, and what you should do if you have abnormal results. It can also be helpful to keep a written log with your results that you can show the doctor at your next visit.

Ob/Gyn

If you're having regular periods or are on the pill, you shouldn't need to see a gynecologist any more frequently than if you didn’t have PCOS. Be sure to keep your annual check-ups for whatever testing your doctor recommends, which may include a pap smear, clinical breast exam, or other tests.

Women with PCOS are at a slightly higher risk of developing endometrial cancer: the risk increases the fewer periods a woman has. Each month, the uterine lining thickens in anticipation of pregnancy, and certain hormonal changes occur throughout the cycle to cause ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). If a fertilized egg is not implanted in the uterus, the body sheds the lining about two weeks after ovulation occurs, and the whole process restarts the next month.

Women with PCOS do not always ovulate regularly, causing the uterine lining to become exposed to higher than usual amounts of estrogen. The lining becomes thicker than normal, potentially causing cancer cells to begin growing.

The risk of endometrial cancer is significantly diminished when you're on the birth control pill, even if you don’t get regular periods. The pill prevents your uterine lining from building up and regulates your hormones. If you're getting fewer than 8 or 9 periods a year and you aren't on the birth control pill, it's important to make an appointment to see your ob/gyn soon.

Endocrinologist

If you are under the care of an endocrinologist and your PCOS symptoms are under control, your doctor will likely want to see you only once a year.

When you first get diagnosed with PCOS, blood sugar levels (including a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test if possible), weight, BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, and cholesterol should be checked and these should be monitored regularly.

Make sure to verify with your doctor when you should plan to follow up, and whether any testing should be done before that visit.

Fertility Specialist

Undergoing fertility treatment is completely different from seeing other specialists. Pursuing fertility treatment requires multiple visits, sometimes even several times a week. It's extremely important to keep those appointments, especially the daily monitoring ones.

While it may seem easy to slack off and miss a visit or two, crucial medication changes can be necessary, and missing those appointments may cause those changes to be missed.

Make sure that you understand exactly what follow-up is required, and when. Using a calendar, (either paper or digital) is instrumental in keeping track of all those appointments.

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