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 a result, it's very important to stay in touch with your doctor and see him regularly. But how often is appropriate? As always, make sure to follow the advice of your doctor, and keep his recommended schedule for routine appointments and other testing.
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.
Your Primary Care Physician (PCP)
If you are healthy and don’t have any chronic medical conditions like diabetes, visiting him once a year should be sufficient. Because of the risk of developing complications when you have PCOS, though, it's important to see him once a year for a check-up.
Your yearly physical 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.
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 (you'll likely need to monitor your blood sugar). 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.
Again, defer to the advice of your physician, but if you're getting regular periods or are on the pill, you don’t need to see her any more frequently than if you didn’t have PCOS. Make sure to check in at least once a year for your pap smear, clinical breast exam and whatever other testing the doctor recommends.
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 a 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 then 8 or 9 periods a year and you aren't on the birth control pill, it's important to make an appointment to see her soon.
Assuming that the symptoms of your PCOS are under control and you don’t have any pressing concerns, your endocrinologist will likely want to see you only once a year. If you don’t see an endocrinologist and are instead treated by your PCP or gynecologist, making an appointment with her once a year should be sufficient as well.
Basic hormonal levels should be checked each year, as well as your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. If any testing is abnormal, your doctor may send you for follow up testing with a cardiologist (heart specialist).
Make sure to verify with your doctor when you should plan to follow up, and whether any testing should be done before that visit.
Undergoing fertility treatment is completely different from seeing other specialists. Unlike other medical issues for which you see the doctor periodically, 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 to keeping track of all those appointments.