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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome & Fertility

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) ovulate irregularly or not at all, making it more difficult to get pregnant. If you have PCOS, the expert team at the Fertility & Reproductive Medicine Center use the latest fertility-enhancing treatments, sometimes in combination with lifestyle changes. Our goal is to help you realize your dream of having a baby.

How Does Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Affect Fertility?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) happens when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of male hormones. PCOS causes ovulation disorders, and women with this condition often have difficulty becoming pregnant without the right treatment.

Hormonal imbalances that result from PCOS can affect fertility in several ways, by causing:

  • Irregular ovulation: High levels of male hormones can cause you to ovulate irregularly or not at all.
  • Ovarian cysts: The hormonal imbalance can cause the follicles (sacs in the ovaries in which eggs grow) to enlarge and become cysts.
  • Weight gain: An excess of male hormones can lead to problems with insulin regulation, which can cause weight gain. Being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for infertility.

Fertility Treatments for Women with PCOS

If your goal is to get pregnant and you have PCOS, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Ovulation-inducing medication: Oral or injectable drugs that stimulate your ovaries to produce and release more eggs are often all you need to achieve pregnancy.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): This procedure involves inserting sperm directly into the uterus. We usually perform IUI in conjunction with oral or injectable ovulation-inducing medications (drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce and release eggs). Learn more about IUI.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): This option involves harvesting several mature eggs from your ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm, developing the embryos for several days, and then transferring one or more embryos directly into your uterus. Read more about IVF.
  • Weight loss: Lifestyle changes – such as improving your diet, getting regular exercise and losing weight – can improve fertility in women who have PCOS.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University fertility and reproductive medicine specialist at the Women & Infants Center, call 855.925.0631.