Have you heard the term PCOS? It’s not a new texting lingo, nor is it a fancy new job title.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a health condition where your body forms little fluid pockets on its ovaries. These fluid bubbles hold immature eggs, and in PCOS the eggs are not released regularly like they should be. Since you don’t ovulate (release eggs) normally with PCOS, you may experience irregular or missing periods.
Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes PCOS, but they have recognized that it can affect a woman’s fertility.
What does PCOS mean for fertility?
An estimated 70-80% of women with PCOS also experience difficulty getting pregnant. This is because PCOS makes it difficult for your body to ovulate, meaning that your ovaries are not releasing eggs regularly every month. With your eggs being less consistently released, it means that there’s less opportunity for fertilization and less opportunity to get pregnant.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get pregnant. But it may be more challenging to do so. You should consider speaking with your healthcare provider about medical treatments to improve your chances.
What medical treatments are used in PCOS infertility?
Depending on your current health and wellness, your doctor may recommend some lifestyle change. This could include increasing your exercise routine, eating a healthy diet, decreasing any tobacco or alcohol consumption, and weight loss if appropriate.
In addition to lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may recommend medication to improve your ovulation. One commonly prescribed medication for PCOS infertility is called Clomiphene Citrate. This medication works by triggering your body to make the hormones needed for ovulation.
Clomiphene Citrate is prescribed as a pill so that no injections are needed. It’s often started on the third day of your period and is typically taken for five days. Ovulation then happens 8-10 days after your last dose of the medication. Either sexual intercourse or insemination can be timed up with your ovulation to hopefully result in pregnancy!
Success rates with Clomiphene Citrate medication are relatively high (estimated 60-70%), but this medication may not work for you. If Clomiphene Citrate doesn’t result in pregnancy after 3-6 months of trying, your healthcare provider may recommend another form of fertility treatment.
Other forms of fertility treatment could include hormone medications called gonadotropins, which are given as a daily injection. Gonadotropins also work to help trigger ovulation.
If medication doesn’t work, your healthcare provider may recommend a laparoscopic procedure called Ovarian Drilling. This procedure makes tiny holes in your ovaries to help restore your ovulation.
If all of these options fail, your doctor may suggest In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF for short. With IVF, eggs are collected from your ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a lab. The fertilized eggs, called embryos, are then re-implanted into your uterus for pregnancy.
- Melo, A. S., Ferriani, R. A., & Navarro, P. A. (2015). Treatment of infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: approach to clinical practice. Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 70(11), 765–769.
- “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic. 08 September, 2022.