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Pregnancy health centre

PCOS and pregnancy

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

'Will I be able to have children?' is often the overriding question for many women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS affects up to 1 in 10 women and it can cause fertility problems.

A diagnosis of PCOS doesn't necessarily mean you'll never have a baby of your own. There are a range of treatments to improve your fertility if you need them.

Victoria Beckham and Jools Oliver have both had PCOS and they each have four children!

Why does PCOS affect fertility?

Polycystic ovaries contain many (more than normal) small cysts, located just below the surface of the ovaries. The cysts are sacs in which eggs develop. Often in PCOS, due to a number of hormonal abnormalities, these sacs do not develop properly and are unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation doesn't take place.

PCOS is a condition in which women with polycystic ovaries can have other symptoms including irregular or missed periods, extra hair growth on the face and tummy, weight gain, acne and problems getting pregnant.

"PCOS is not an uncommon condition but it may have several different manifestations," says Stuart Lavery, consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London.

Mr Lavery who's also a spokesperson for the British Fertility Society says: "The commonest reason for a delay in conceiving is related to the fact that some women with PCOS have irregular, unreliable, unpredictable or even absent ovulation. These women have irregular periods, or sometimes no periods at all."

"You are less likely to get pregnant if you have a cycle of more than 35 days," says Virginia Beckett, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals Trust. "However in some cases you may have two or three periods a year and still ovulate."

How to get pregnant with PCOS?

There are ways to boost ovulation and maximise your chances of conception.

Losing weight may help you. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese, but putting on weight is also a symptom of PCOS.

Dr Beckett who's also a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says: "It's a complex picture as not every woman with PCOS is overweight. If you don't have the insulin resistant type of PCOS you may be slim already so losing weight won't help you get pregnant."

Having a healthy body mass index ( BMI) can help to balance your hormone levels, reduce the high insulin level that very often occurs in PCOS and help you ovulate. Most GPs will recommend losing weight, if necessary, as a first step.

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