Pregnancy Risks with PCOS

Wednesday 28 April 2021
Hormones

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jubil Tom, MD
on 14 June 2021

Table of Contents


I. Pregnancy and PCOS

II. Loss of Pregnancy

III. Gestational Diabetes

IV. Risk of Preeclampsia

V. Preterm Birth and Health Problems


Pregnancy and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs when cysts form on the ovaries and cause hormone fluctuations. Researchers don’t know the exact cause of PCOS, but the condition is likely caused by genetic and lifestyle factors. PCOS can cause irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, and balding. Because PCOS affects female reproductive hormones, women with PCOS may experience complications during pregnancy. [1]

If you are trying to conceive and have PCOS, ask your doctor about PCOS medications for fertility. Femara (letrozole) and Clomid (clomiphene citrate) can stimulate the body to produce egg follicles that will help with fertility. If you have PCOS and are pregnant, consult your doctor for tailored ways to minimize your risk of complications. Read on to learn about complications that may occur to pregnant women with PCOS. [2] 

two partners embracing on a balcony

Loss of Pregnancy

Studies show that women with PCOS are three times more likely to miscarry in the early months of pregnancy compared to women without PCOS. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of miscarriage because they often have higher levels of testosterone. Women with PCOS are also more likely to have insulin resistance. [1]

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a risk factor for developing diabetes. If left untreated or uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to loss of pregnancy. Conversely, diabetes is a risk factor for PCOS. If you have been diagnosed with either disease, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent any complications. [3]

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women with PCOS are at a heightened risk of developing gestational diabetes. Gestation refers to the time between conception and birth. As the name suggests, gestational diabetes describes a type of diabetes only pregnant women can develop. If addressed properly, gestational diabetes usually goes away after the birth of the baby. However, gestational diabetes can cause low blood sugar and breathing difficulties. These symptoms can affect the mother or the fetus. Additionally, mothers who have gestational diabetes tend to have very large babies and may require a C-section (cesarean delivery). [3]

an adult’s hand holding an infant’s hand

Risk of Preeclampsia

There is data that suggests women with PCOS may be more likely than women without PCOS to develop preeclampsia. The connection between the two is unknown, but it is thought that preeclampsia and PCOS may be linked by abnormal placenta growth. [4] Preeclampsia is a condition that can cause sudden blood pressure spikes and affect the mother’s liver, brain, and kidneys. Untreated preeclampsia can worsen into eclampsia, which can cause organ damage and potentially fatal seizures. Pregnant women with preeclampsia may require a C-section delivery. [1]

Preterm Birth and Health Problems

An infant is considered preterm if they are birthed before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Pregnant women who have PCOS have a higher risk of having a preterm delivery. In a study that compared women with and without PCOS, researchers found that 12.9 percent of women with PCOS delivered preterm, while 7.4 percent of non-PCOS women delivered preterm. The prevalence of preterm birth in women with PCOS may be due to the following causes: 

  • Cervical insufficiency
  • Hypertensive complications
  • Fetal-placental concerns
  • Intrauterine fetal demise
  • Premature rupture of membranes [5]

doctors weighing a baby on a scale

Preterm infants may be at a higher risk of several health problems, such as respiratory distress and immature brain development. These health problems may increase the risk of asthma and other health complications later in life. Long-term effects of preterm birth may include: 

  • Learning difficulties
  • Increased risk of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Behavioral or social-emotional problems
  • Increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) [6]

The fact is that babies who are born early are more vulnerable to serious health problems. However, neonatal care for preterm babies has advanced greatly in recent times and can increase the survival chances of babies born prematurely. [6]

Polycystic ovary syndrome does not only affect pregnancy but can have several other types of symptoms. For example, hair loss medication or acne creams may be prescribed to treat PCOS-related increases in androgen and testosterone. But for many pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive, medications for fertility are the priority. Ask your doctor about ways to have a successful pregnancy with PCOS today. 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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