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Getting Pregnant With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Yes, getting pregnant if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome is possible! One of the major causes of infertility for women is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and it can prevent them from conceiving a baby. But, the good news is that PCOS can be treated, and women with PCOS can get pregnant.

Here’s the latest information about polycystic ovarian syndrome from Northwestern University.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a metabolic disorder and one of the major causes of hormonally related infertility for women, yet the disorder remains largely undiagnosed and unknown. About five million women in the United States are affected by it.

“[Before being diagnosed with PCOS], women are told they are too fat and aren’t taken seriously for a long time,” says Andrea Dunaif, M.D., the Charles F. Kettering Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “They go to an average of four doctors before they are diagnosed. They have been to physicians who say ‘there is nothing wrong with you, don’t worry’.”

If you think you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome but your doctor hasn’t diagnosed it, consider getting a second or third opinion. If you have PCOS and are wondering if you can get pregnant, read The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health — it may help!

And, here’s the latest research on female infertility from from Northwestern, plus a story of one woman’s struggle with PCOS…

Getting Pregnant With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

When Gail Donnelly turned 27, her once knobby frame disappeared under mysteriously ballooning weight. Her diet hadn’t changed, she was still walking several miles a day, but she gained 50 pounds in just six months. Her doctor thought the cause was ovarian cysts. It took 10 years and two surgeries before a new doctor accurately diagnosed her with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

This complex genetic disease has long-term health risks throughout a woman’s lifespan, including obesity and double the rate of metabolic syndrome, a constellation of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

It’s not just women who are affected. Dr Dunaif recently published a paper showing that brothers and fathers of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome also have a greater prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome. “It’s essential that women and men are diagnosed and treated for this,” she says.

Symptoms of PCOS in women often show up in adolescence and may include irregular periods and excess hair on the face, chest or back – all caused by high levels of male hormones. Polycystic ovarian syndrome can decrease female fertility and prevent a woman from getting pregnant.

Why Isn’t PCOS Diagnosed More Often?

Dunaif blames the syndrome’s low profile on its name.  “It has the word ovary in the name and that has led people to think it’s just ‘female’ troubles and nothing important,” she said. Polycystic ovarian syndrome its name from the small ovarian cysts found in the first women studied, though not all women who suffer from PCOS have these cysts. Dunaif would like to rename the syndrome “Syndrome XX” to bring it into the spotlight.

After Dunaif began treating Donnelly with medication for insulin resistance – which had caused her rapid weight gain – Donnelly’s excess pounds dropped off and she was able to get pregnant. “If I had known about this sooner, my life would have been entirely different,” Donnelly said. She couldn’t take the medication when she was pregnant or nursing, however, so her weight soared 80 pounds with each pregnancy. At one point, she weighed 280 pounds.

Of her struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome, she said, “It’s like having a battle with my body at all times.” Now a 40 year-old mother of three from the Chicago suburbs, Donnelly worries about her children inheriting the disease. She realizes many of her relatives – who developed diabetes as adults – likely had PCOS.

Some women find acupuncture is a successful treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome. For more info, read acupuncture for PCOS.

More Research on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Getting Pregnant

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Dunaif recently was awarded a $5 million, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her ongoing research into the syndrome’s genetic causes. She is currently recruiting women with PCOS as well as their daughters, brothers and fathers to participate in her studies to determine the genetic causes of the disease. For information, visit Northwestern University PCOS Research. 

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