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3 tips to getting pregnant if you have PCOS

Jennifer Larson,Julia Simon   

3 tips to getting pregnant if you have PCOS
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reason why women in the US can't get pregnant.
  • Losing weight or taking certain medication can boost your odds of getting pregnant with PCOS.
  • If all else fails, consider in-vitro fertilization but know that your odds can rely on age and weight.

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common hormonal disorder that disrupts the menstrual cycle and is one of the most common causes of infertility in women in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That said, getting pregnant with PCOS is not impossible, and with the right approach, your chances may even be pretty good.

Important: Women with PCOS are prone to developing certain complications during pregnancy, like gestational diabetes.

It's important to note that those who are pregnant with PCOS, "are also at higher risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy," says Nanette Santoro, MD, professor and E. Stewart Taylor Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

For example, a woman with PCOS may be more likely to develop high blood pressure that could lead to preeclampsia.

With that in mind, here are the three common ways that women with PCOS can improve their chances of getting pregnant.

1. Shed excess weight

"Because ovulation is infrequent in women with PCOS, and you cannot conceive if you do not ovulate, this winds up being the chief barrier to fertility," says Santoro.

Santoro usually advises her patients with PCOS to first lose weight if they're carrying more than a few extra pounds around.

That's because research has shown that even a 5% loss of total body weight has helped some women begin to ovulate again.

2. Medication may help

You might need to start taking medication to stimulate ovulation because even if you are having menstrual periods, you might not be ovulating.

"Usually, I go straight from the pill to medications to help them ovulate," says Richard Legro, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health.

Clomiphene citrate (Clomid) and letrozole (Femara) are often used to stimulate ovulation and are pretty successful, says Santoro.

Clomid, which stimulates your body to produce hormones that encourage ovulation, has been used as a first-line treatment for many years. But letrozole, which also works by convincing your body to produce more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), may be more likely to help you get pregnant.

3. Consider in-vitro fertilization

If meds don't work, then there's the option of intrauterine insemination or also in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is an assisted reproductive procedure in which some of a woman's eggs are taken from her ovaries, fertilized by sperm in a lab, and then transferred into her uterus.

"Fortunately, because women with PCOS have such a large endowment of eggs and follicles, modern fertility treatments are usually highly successful and can often be very simple," says Santoro.

It's not clear how successful IVF is at helping women with PCOS get pregnant. However, one 2015 study found that women with PCOS had an equal chance of getting pregnant through IVF as women without PCOS.

In general, factors like age and weight will affect your chances of getting pregnant through IVF.

When to see a doctor

"If a woman is under 35 and she's having at least one period every three months, she may want to try on her own for up to six months to a year to see if she can get pregnant," says Santoro. "But if she can't, it's time to go to an obstetrician."

Your OB-GYN can help rule out any other underlying factors that could be contributing to infertility.

Insider's takeaway

If you have PCOS, it may be more difficult for you to get pregnant, but it's not impossible. Shedding excess weight and taking certain medications may help boost your chances.

If lifestyle changes and medication don't work, you may want to consider in vitro fertilization.

It's important to remember, though, that people with PCOS are at a greater risk of complications during pregnancy, like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

The symptoms of PCOS, a hormonal condition that causes weight gain and acneHow to lose weight with PCOS, and the best diet to help relieve symptomsHow many eggs you're born with plays a key role in fertility, but it's not the only factorHow to boost your chances of pregnancy after miscarriage — and when you can try to get pregnant again


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