What is the relationship between pregnancy and PCOS? Can I still get pregnant if I’ve been diagnosed?
Although it’s not well known or understood, approximately one in ten women in the U.S. are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). With PCOS, an imbalance of reproductive hormones creates problems in the ovaries. Ovaries make the egg released as part of a monthly menstrual cycle. With PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or may not be released during ovulation. PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility.
Who Has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, five to seven million women in the U.S. may be living with PCOS.
No one knows the exact cause of PCOS, although it’s believed to be hereditary. Early diagnosis and treatment and weight loss help reduce the risk of long-term complications.
What Are The Symptoms?
PCOS has many symptoms, and each woman may experience various symptoms and be affected differently. Symptoms often start after a girl first begins having periods. In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years. To be diagnosed with the condition, your doctor looks for at least two of the following:
- Irregular menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year). Or their periods may come every 21 days or more often. Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods.
- Too much hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair. This is called “hirsutism.” Hirsutism affects up to 70% of women with PCOS.
- Acne on the face, chest, and upper back.
- Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness.
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
- Darkening of skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts.
- Skin tags are small excess skin flaps in the armpits or neck area.
If you’re diagnosed with PCOS, your doctor may recommend weight loss. Even a small reduction in weight might improve your condition as obesity worsens the symptoms.
Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to regulate your menstrual cycle and may recommend birth control pills. When you take this medication to relieve your symptoms, you won’t be able to conceive.
An alternative is to take progesterone for 10 to 14 days every 1-2 months. Progesterone therapy standardizes your periods and helps protect you from endometrial cancer; however, it doesn’t improve the amount of androgen and will not prevent pregnancy.
Can You Become Pregnant?
Having PCOS does not mean you can’t get pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common but treatable causes of infertility. In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant.
Your doctor can talk with you about ways to help you ovulate and raise your chance of getting pregnant. You can also use our Ovulation Calculator to see which days you are most likely to be fertile in your menstrual cycle.
If you have questions or concerns about PCOS and pregnancy, please contact us to schedule an appointment or 479.582.9268.