Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that interferes with a woman’s reproductive system. This includes getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and carrying a healthy child to term. If you are considering pregnancy, here is what you should know about PCOS and fertility.
How PCOS Affects Women
A woman with PCOS has a larger than normal ovary. This hormonal issue allows tiny cysts to develop in the large ovary containing immature eggs. It also causes a woman to produce higher than normal levels of androgens, known as a hormone imbalance.
This higher level of androgens affects ovulation, which is the development and release of eggs each month. Thus, a woman with PCOS may have trouble becoming pregnant.
A woman with PCOS has a higher risk for complications during pregnancy and is three times as likely to miscarry in the early months of pregnancy.
Any woman with PCOS is at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, and stroke.
60% of obese women have PCOS.
Symptoms Of PCOS
The first sign that a woman may have PCOS is irregular and missed periods. Other signs include fewer than 8 periods in a year, excess hair on face and chin, acne, thinning hair, weight gain and trouble losing weight, darkening of skin in certain areas, and skin tags.
Complications From PCOS
PCOS can cause miscarriage usually in the early months of pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs in women who have never had diabetes before, but develop it during pregnancy. If treated, it can be controlled, but both the mother and baby can get type 2 diabetes later in life.
Preeclampsia is an increase in blood pressure that occurs near the 20th week of pregnancy. It can be dangerous in that it affects the mother’s kidneys, liver, and brain. There are risks for both mother and baby, but it can be treated. Many times a C-section is needed for delivery.
Preterm birth is a common complication from PCOS. This describes a birth before week 37 requiring a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Higher risk of child dying before, during, or right after birth.
There is currently no cure, but treatment with birth control pills, androgen blocking meds, ovulation meds, and metformin to control blood sugar are some ways to manage and treat PCOS. You can talk to your physician about in vitro fertilization as an option or even surgical intervention.
You can still have a healthy baby with PCOS, but work with your doctor to stay informed and reduce the risk of complications.