Ovarian Cysts Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Pcos Pregnancy

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of infertility in women. Fortunately, PCOS fertility treatments make pregnancy with PCOS attainable, allowing many women to conceive and carry children to term.

Unfortunately, the risk of serious pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia and miscarriage, is higher than normal for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. A woman can increase her chance of a successful pregnancy with PCOS by:

  • Carefully monitoring the pregnancy
  • Getting prompt intervention if complications occur
  • Maintaining a healthy PCOS pregnancy diet.

PCOS and Pregnancy Complications

Polycystic ovarian syndrome has multiple effects, including hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. In addition to affecting fertility and producing symptoms like unwanted hair growth, PCOS also increases the risk of the following pregnancy complications:

  • Endometriosis (growth of uterine lining tissue outside of the uterus)
  • Gestational diabetes (diabetes induced by pregnancy)
  • Large birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Preeclampsia (a dangerous condition characterized by swelling, high blood pressure and protein in the urine)
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Premature birth.

The risk of miscarriage is especially high when PCOS and pregnancy intersect. According to the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, approximately 45 to 50 percent of women with PCOS have miscarriages, while the rates for the general population are 15 to 20 percent.

Why pregnancy with PCOS is susceptible to miscarriage is a matter of debate. Some studies implicate high levels of male sex hormones. Others suggest that these miscarriage rates are due to high levels of luteinizing hormone, which stimulates ovulation.

A third theory notes that women with PCOS and insulin resistance have higher rates of miscarriage than women with polycystic ovarian syndrome alone. High levels of insulin increase the risk of blood clots developing in the uterus. Such blood clots prevent the placenta from delivering nutrients to the fetus and removing waste products, resulting in miscarriage.

Metformin and PCOS

Metformin is a diabetes drug used off-label in PCOS fertility treatments. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, women who continued metformin PCOS treatment through pregnancy had miscarriage rates of 9 percent, compared to a 41 percent miscarriage rate in the control group.

Metformin may lower PCOS miscarriage rates by controlling insulin resistance, which often increases with pregnancy and can develop into gestational diabetes.

PCOS Pregnancy Diet

A healthy PCOS pregnancy diet can be difficult for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, since the new diet is often at odds with their regular eating habits. Low carbohydrate diets are often promoted as PCOS diets. However, for pregnancy with PCOS, women need to increase carbohydrate intake through vitamins and minerals found in:

  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables.

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome often suffer from obesity, and may worry that a PCOS pregnancy diet will aggravate their struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

A PCOS pregnancy diet emphasizes many of the eating habits suggested by the American Diabetes Association to lower the risk of gestational diabetes. Here are some of their recommendations:

  • Eat carbohydrates with protein-rich foods to keep blood glucose levels stable.
  • Eat three small meals, as well as two to four snacks a day.
  • Opt for whole-grain or high-fiber carbohydrates over processed or refined foods.

Following a PCOS pregnancy diet can be challenging. A qualified dietitian can help women meet their nutritional goals while dealing with PCOS and pregnancy simultaneously.


3 Fat Chicks Staff. (n.d.). Pregnancy and PCOS: Diet/fitness/lifestyle changes. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from the 3 Fat Chicks Web site: http://www.3fatchicks.com/pregnancy-pcos-diet-fitness-lifestyle-changes/.

Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. (n.d.). Metformin (glucophage) for PCOS fertility treatment. Retrieved 23 February, 2010, from the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago Web site: http://www.advancedfertility.com/metformin-pcos-pregnancy.htm.

Grassi, A. (2008). Polycystic ovary syndrome: Unique concerns during pregnancy and lactation. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from the Today’s Dietician Web site: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120108p38.shtml.

International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination Staff. (2006). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) FAQ. Retrieved March 4, 2010, from the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination Web site: http://www.inciid.org/faq.php?cat=infertility101