Getting Pregnant with PCOS
PCOS and Pregnancy: Is It Possible?
Patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often wonder, “Will I be able to get pregnant?” Polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects about 6-12% of women in reproductive age, occurs when a woman’s ovaries contain multiple small cysts. Women with PCOS often experience difficulty conceiving because of lack of ovulation and menstruation. PCOS may also affect their hormone levels.
Though the infertility rate for PCOS sufferers is high, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Especially when the patient is under 40, pregnancy with PCOS is very much possible. Even when the patient is over 40 and her reservoir of eggs may be getting low, individualized fertility treatment from a specialist can make pregnancy achievable.
Hormones Affect Pregnancy with PCOS
Women with PCOS produce a higher-than-normal amount of androgens, which are a class of hormones. In men, androgens aid in the development of sex organs and secondary sex characteristics (like facial hair and a deep voice). Though androgens are mainly thought of as “male hormones” because men have significantly higher levels than women, the female body also produces some androgens. A good level of androgens is actually necessary for normal female reproductive process, as androgens help eggs develop normally in the ovaries. But when female androgen levels become too high, it’s common for ovulation to stop, which can make getting pregnant with PCOS very difficult if the condition is not treated.
PCOS Infertility: How to Make a Pregnancy More Likely
Find a Specialist in PCOS and Fertility
It's imperative that you see a fertility specialist with extensive experience in treating patients with PCOS. Though many clinics use “one-size-fits-all” fertility treatment protocols for all patients of any age, it’s important for the clinic you choose to offer a specialized treatment plan for you. Women with different hormone levels, and at different ages, will need different types of treatment for a successful pregnancy. By seeing a specialist in PCOS, you're likely choosing someone who knows exactly what protocol and treatment program you need in order to get pregnant. This is especially true if you are over 40 and have a history of PCOS.
If you’re unsure how to choose the right doctor for you, we’ve provided a few tips on finding your perfect specialist.
Know Which Type of PCOS You Have
CHR’s physicians recently identified two different types of PCOS--the “classical” PCOS and “lean” PCOS. It appears that they have different causes and associated conditions, and patients with these two types of PCOS respond differently to infertility treatments. Their chances of pregnancy are also different. Hence, receiving the fertility treatment that precisely targets the type of PCOS you have, with an eye toward any related conditions that might interfere with your fertility, is quite important. Again, these nuances emphasize the importance of speaking to an infertility specialist who is well-versed in PCOS.
Consider a PCOS Treatment That Induces Ovulation
Another PCOS treatment option involves medical therapy specifically designed to facilitate ovulation, also called ovulation induction. During ovulation induction, medication is used to stimulate development of one or more mature follicles (the tiny sacs where eggs develop) in the ovaries of women who experience anovulation (do not ovulate). Women who don’t ovulate do not regularly develop mature follicles which release an egg without help from ovulation enhancing drugs.
Talk to your doctor about whether ovulation induction with IUI or IVF is the right way to help you get pregnant with PCOS.
Changes in Lifestyle
If you can, trying to live a healthier lifestyle can improve your chances for a PCOS pregnancy:
- Aim for a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise. PCOS is associated with obesity, so losing weight can help reduce PCOS symptoms.
- If you smoke, you should quit. Smoking can increase your chances for PCOS and make it much harder to conceive.
- Try in any possible way to reduce stress. Though stress doesn’t cause PCOS, it can make ovulation even harder.
Last Updated: September 28, 2017