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Understanding PCOS: Fertility Impact

Updated: Oct 2, 2022


Women may learn that they have PCOS when experiencing difficulty conceiving. We will be discussing PCOS and its signs and symptoms. Additionally, we will review the potential impact of PCOS on fertility.



What is PCOS?


Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a health condition related to hormonal imbalance that can affect women of reproductive age. PCOS occurs when a women’s body creates more male hormones than normal. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility, as 6-12% of women in the United States have this condition.

What Are the Signs of PCOS?

Common signs of PCOS include missed periods, irregular periods or very light periods. Women with PCOS may have excess body hair, including hair on the stomach, chest, face and back. Some women experience weight gain. Additionally, thinning hair and insulin resistance may also occur. For many women, they are diagnosed with PCOS during an infertility workup after experiencing difficulty conceiving. Some of the long-term effects of PCOS include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.


How Does PCOS Impact Fertility?


Women with PCOS have ovaries which are larger than normal. These larger ovaries can have many cysts that contain immature eggs. PCOS causes a women to produce high levels of androgens. A high level of androgens interferes with regular ovulation. Fertilization cannot occur if a healthy mature egg is not released.


How Is PCOS Treated?


Physicians may prescribe birth control pills to help regulate periods. For women with PCOS who desire to conceive, medications may be administered in an effort to stimulate ovulation. It is important for women with PCOS to obtain care from a specialist when attempting to conceive.


Does PCOS Affect IVF?


In general, women with PCOS have a larger number of eggs retrieved following stimulation. It is not uncommon for women with PCOS to have 20 eggs or more retrieved. However, PCOS has been found to impact egg quality. Additionally, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is more likely in women with PCOS.


Takeaway:


PCOS is a relatively common condition which impacts women of reproductive age. The signs of PCOS include increased weight, insulin resistance, excess body hair and male-pattern baldness. Women with PCOS may experience issues conceiving. It is important that women discuss their concerns with their physician and obtain treatment from a specialist if PCOS is diagnosed.


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