How does PCOS affect pregnancy?

No two women are the same. This is true for pregnancies, also – each one is a completely different experience. Of course, this makes predicting certain conditions a little tricky, but healthcare providers can be aware of risks ahead of time based on certain aspects of their patient’s health.

This is helpful for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) because having PCOS puts them at a higher risk of the following pregnancy complications. Remember, these complications don’t happen to every pregnant woman with PCOS, but if you are pregnant with PCOS it is important to be aware of your increased risk.

Early pregnancy loss

The National Institutes of Health report that compared to women who don’t have PCOS, women who do have PCOS are nearly three times more likely to experience a miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. Some women are encouraged to take metformin to prevent this, but unfortunately, this does not completely eliminate the risk of miscarriage. 

Gestational diabetes

This is a treatable condition that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, in which a pregnant woman becomes diabetic due to her body’s inability to adapt to the physiologic changes of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery, but it can lead to more serious conditions so it must be monitored throughout pregnancy.

All women are screened for gestational diabetes between 24-28 weeks pregnancy, but women with PCOS have higher rates of gestational diabetes because the condition often causes a pre-existing insulin resistance even before pregnancy.


This is another condition that requires close monitoring and treatment as soon as it’s diagnosed. Preeclampsia is characterized by a sudden rise in blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as well as one or more of the following: protein in urine, low platelets, impaired liver function, or a new onset of other symptoms not usually seen during pregnancy. Sometimes this requires early delivery to ensure maternal and fetal safety. Women with PCOS also experience more instances of preeclampsia than do women without it.

Preterm birth

Babies born to women with PCOS have higher rates of preterm birth (defined as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

C-section delivery

For many women, experiencing any of the above conditions means that they might be more likely to deliver by C-section, making the rates of C-sections higher among women with PCOS than women who don’t have the condition. C-sections carry their own risks, but they are very useful in certain situations.

With PCOS, it’s important to be aware of how your body feels, and to let your provider know if you notice anything that could require his or her attention. Of course, your provider will monitor you too. Remember that not all women with PCOS will experience these complications, and many go on to have completely healthy, happy pregnancies.

  • “Pregnancy and Delivery Complications.” PCOSAA. PCOS Awareness Association, 2016. Web.
  • “Does PCOS affect pregnancy?” NIH. US Department of Health and Human Services, May 23 2013. Web.
  • “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet.” Womenshealth. Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. Dec 23 2014. Web.
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