Women with PCOS
Fertility for Women with PCOS
Women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Fertility
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is the most common cause of female infertility related to the absence of ovulation. About one in ten women of childbearing age has PCOS and can occur in girls as young as 11 years old. In fact, most women with PCOS dont find out that they have the disease until they try to get pregnant and are not successful.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine defines infertility as the inability of a woman younger than age 30 to get pregnant after 12 months of having unprotected intercourse; the inability of a woman older than age 30 to get pregnant after 6 months of having unprotected intercourse; or the inability to carry a pregnancy to delivery. Most women with PCOS who suffer from infertility can be treated and do become pregnant, although some women do not respond to treatment.
Why do women with PCOS have trouble with their menstrual cycle?
A woman's ovaries have follicles, which are tiny sacs filled with liquid that hold the eggs; these sacs are called cysts. Each month about 20 eggs start to mature, but usually only one matures fully. As this one egg grows, the follicle accumulates fluid in it. When that egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release it. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube for fertilization. When the single egg leaves the follicle, ovulation takes place.
In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn't make all of the hormones it needs for any of the eggs to fully mature. Follicles may start to grow and build up fluid, but no one follicle becomes large enough. Instead, some follicles may remain as cysts. Since no follicle becomes large enough and no egg matures or is released, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman's menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Plus, the cysts make male hormones, which also prevent ovulation.
How does PCOS affect fertility?
Because women with PCOS do not release eggs during ovulation, it is the most common cause of female infertility. As a result, women with PCOS often have menstrual irregularities, such as amenorrhea (they dont get menstrual periods) or oligomenorrhea (they only have periods now and then). Because the eggs are not released, most women have trouble getting pregnant.
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