How does PCOS affect fertility?

One of the most common concerns among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is whether or not they can get pregnant. The truth is, the condition does affect fertility. So while many women with PCOS can get pregnant, they often need medical assistance specific to women with PCOS.

Ovulation with PCOS

Androgens are hormones that are generally associated with male development. Women’s bodies also make androgens, but women with PCOS have higher-than-normal levels of androgens. These higher levels stop ovulation from occurring, and so prevents the ovaries from producing progesterone.

Progesterone is an important hormone during and before pregnancy, and is secreted by the ovary after ovulation. These hormonal changes also cause women with PCOS to develop physical symptoms like excess facial or body hair, weight gain, and acne.

Menstruation with PCOS

Nearly seven out of ten women with PCOS have irregular, infrequent, or absent periods. The high levels of androgens and insulin, combined with the absence of progesterone, prevent many women with PCOS from experiencing a healthy and regular period.

Excess weight and PCOS

Some women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and in these cases, excess weight might affect their fertility. Studies show that women with PCOS who struggle with excess weight had better ovarian function and were able to get pregnant after losing around 5% of their starting body weight.

PCOS and fertility

An absence of ovulation, excess weight, or a combination of both can all lead to PCOS-related infertility, a leading cause of infertility among women today. As you can imagine, this is incredibly confusing and frustrating for women who don’t know that they have the condition. Fortunately, once women know they have the condition, they can start various treatment to help manage the condition.

While there’s no single fertility treatment that works for all women with PCOS, certain lifestyle changes, medications, and medical treatments are options to try in order for women with PCOS to experience pregnancy.

You should speak with your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about PCOS, or are looking for ways to help manage it. 

  • “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet.” WomensHealth. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dec 23 2014. Web.
  • “Does PCOS Affect a Woman’s Ability to Conceive?” CircleBloom. Circle Bloom, LLC., 2013. Web.
  • Jennifer Kulp Makarov. “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment.” Resolve. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, 2016. Web.
  • “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Mar 2015. Web.
  • D. Kiddy, D. Hamilton-Fairley, A. Bush, F. Short, V. Anyaoku, MJ Reed, S Franks. “Improvement in endocrine and ovarian function during dietary treatment of obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” Clinical Endocrinology. 36(1):105-11. Web. Jan 1992.
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