The Good News About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Fertility
November 11, 2020
For many women who are having trouble getting pregnant, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be the reason. PCOS, an imbalance of reproductive hormones, can interfere with normal ovulation. And without ovulation, eggs cannot be fertilized.
The good news is PCOS is a very treatable cause of infertility.
Symptoms of PCOS
According to ReproductiveFacts.org, 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age are affected by PCOS. Symptoms range from acne, thinning hair, weight gain and hirsutism (an excessive growth of facial or body hair), to polycystic ovaries and irregular or absent menstrual periods. Irregular periods can lead to an inability to get pregnant.
Can I Get Pregnant if I Have PCOS?
It’s true that irregular ovulation makes getting pregnant more difficult. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods (less than eight per year). Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods.
However, having PCOS does not mean you can't get pregnant. After conducting a physical exam and reviewing your medical history, symptoms, and test results, your provider can talk with you about ways to help you ovulate and to raise your chance of getting pregnant.
Treating PCOS with the Goal of Pregnancy
There are several ways to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant if you have PCOS:
- Losing weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight through healthy eating and regular physical activity can help make your menstrual cycle more regular and improve your fertility.
- Medication. After ruling out other causes of infertility in you and your partner, your doctor might prescribe fertility medication to help you ovulate.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF). You may be referred to a fertility specialist to discuss IVF, the most common (but definitely not the only) type of assisted reproductive technology treatment. During IVF, eggs and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory dish and then transferred to a woman's uterus.
- Surgery. Surgery is also an option, but usually only if the other options do not work.
Give Your Body a Chance
If you have PCOS and are not getting pregnant as quickly as you had hoped, do not give up. A fertility specialist can help you find the best course of treatment for you.
Alisha Pinkerton, MPAS, PA-C
Alisha Pinkerton, MPAS, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant at Penn Fertility Care – Lancaster General Health, Lancaster General Health Physicians. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her Master of Physician Assistant Studies from Chatham College. Alisha has practiced in both infertility and OB-GYN, and is dedicated to providing compassionate care to her patients.