PCOS and your fertility: positive new research

In new research from The University of Queensland, people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have been found to respond positively to fertility treatment and have the same birth rate as those without the condition. Here we look at this research and explain what it might mean if you have PCOS.

PCOS: what it is, symptoms, and how to manage it

PCOS is a hormonal condition that happens during the reproductive years (usually late teens to late 20s), where increased levels of insulin and testosterone causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. 

It is the most common hormonal condition for women of childbearing age, affecting around eight to 13 out of every 100 people. Symptoms of PCOS can include irregular periods, painful cramps, cystic acne, chronic fatigue, excess facial or body hair, easy weight gain, anxiety and depression. 

However, some people who may not experience severe symptoms are not aware that they have PCOS until they try to get pregnant. 

The cause of PCOS is not known but a combination of lifestyle and genetics have a part to play. And while currently there is no cure for PCOS, following a healthy diet and lifestyle is recommended to help manage the condition. 

Research conducted in 2016 suggested that certain dietary modifications may improve reproductive outcomes in people with PCOS by helping to eliminate chronic low-grade inflammatory processes in the disease.

The NZ Nutrition Foundation offers helpful advice for what and when to eat, and how to manage stress. Click here to learn more.

The latest research: positive news

The new research from the University of Queensland looked at 1,109 women who were undergoing fertility treatment. Interestingly, it didn’t find any difference in births between the women with and without PCOS, nor any difference between those on different treatment paths. 

Dr Katrina Moss from the University of Queensland School of Public Health noted that while more people with PCOS were receiving fertility treatment (almost 40% compared to 13% of people without PCOS), the birth rate was the same

The researchers also noted that those with PCOS are more likely to start fertility treatments earlier than those without PCOS – around three years earlier, at 31 years of age. 

“We see people earlier with PCOS so generally they are younger as they are not having regular menstrual cycles compared with others who do have regular cycles”, says Repromed medical director Dr Devashana Gupta. 

The study found that Ovulation Induction (OI) was seen to be highly effective for people with PCOS and that there was no disadvantage to starting with OI and then progressing to other treatments. 

“PCOS is one of the easier infertility diagnoses to manage”, agrees Devashana, “as we focus on helping them ovulate with OI in the first instance, following which IVF may be used if needed.” 

OI is a common first step in the fertility treatment journey and involves stimulating the ovaries with medication. The follicular growth is monitored with blood tests and sometimes ultrasound scans, for timed intercourse. You can read more about OI on our website.

Other considerations

It’s important to also be aware of the management of lifestyle factors that can help improve your fertility”, says Devashana. “That means that while you’re undergoing fertility treatment, it’s recommended  to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

You can find more information on our website about what you can do to prepare for your treatment.

Devashana also advises, “if you don’t have regular cycles it’s important to seek help via your GP or a gynaecologist.” 

Getting started on your fertility journey

If you are considering fertility treatment and are not sure where to start, we offer a free 15 minute phone consultation with one of our fertility doctors where you can discuss your fertility goals, any tests you think you may need, and specific treatments. Find out more and book.

Or, if you are ready to get started, we suggest a first consultation with one of our fertility doctors where we can go more in depth, providing you with next steps for your fertility plan and reviewing eligibility for public funding, if applicable. Learn more about this appointment and book in with our team.

Megan Black

Nurse Manager

DipNurs

Megan leads the nursing team through the continually changing face of IVF. She works in a multidisciplinary team, providing the essential organization between the doctors and laboratory and ensuring communication between all departments.

Megan started her IVF nursing career in the United Kingdom, working in two large London clinic’s before returning to New Zealand. She is also the Secretary of Fertility Nurses of Australasia.

I love working with people and see nursing as a vocation, not a job. I usually spend my downtime absorbed in a good book and planning my next travel adventure.