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Polycystic ovary syndrome and pregnancy

With millions of undiagnosed cases in the UK, we want to encourage everyone to know their fertility health.

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PCOS and your fertility

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of fertility problems, affecting around 1 in 10 women in the UK.


Many people only find out they have it after trying for a baby. This can come as a shock, especially if you’ve never had symptoms.


On this page, you can find out:

  • What PCOS is and how it affects fertility

  • How to check your fertility health

  • More about your pregnancy options

  • Stories from people with PCOS who’ve had fertility treatment


Help us spread the word and raise PCOS awareness - share this page with someone you know.

PCOS doesn't mean giving up on your fertility journey

You can still get pregnant with PCOS, though you might need extra help with treatments like medications or IVF.


What is PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal condition that can cause:


  • Irregular periods

  • Excess hair, acne and weight gain

  • Large ovaries with lots of follicles (fluid-filled sacs)


If you have at least two of these symptoms, you may be diagnosed with PCOS.


Why people get PCOS is unknown and not everyone with PCOS will have symptoms.

gay couple women

How does PCOS affect fertility?

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects fertility because it reduces or prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg (called ovulation) during your menstrual cycle.


This is caused by having very high levels of anti-mullerian hormone (AMH). Even if you do have menstrual cycles, your hormonal balance can affect the quality of your eggs.


These factors are why one of the main symptoms of PCOS is having a hard time getting pregnant.


Being on the contraceptive pill can cover up the other signs of PCOS, like irregular periods, so you only find out when you start trying for a baby.


That’s what happened to Karen during her fertility journey.

Woman and her son smiling

Testing your fertility with PCOS


A fertility assessment gives you a fuller picture of your fertility health, including whether you have PCOS and if you can do anything to increase your chances of pregnancy.


If you've already been diagnosed with PCOS, a fertility assessment can help you understand:

  • Your current hormone balance

  • Whether any medicines have helped reduce the size of your ovaries

  • If your partner has any fertility challenges that are contributing


It can also help show whether there’s anything else going on that could be making it harder to get pregnant.


Once you know your fertility health, we can support you in exploring the next steps, including whether specialist treatments like IVF could help.


“A fertility assessment can give you peace of mind if you're feeling anxious about your fertility after some months of trying to conceive, or if you’re thinking of starting a family in the future.”

– Dr Laura Hodges, Fertility Specialist at TFP Fertility UK

What does a fertility assessment look at?

  • Green Circle
    AMH blood test

    Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) is often higher in women with PCOS. Knowing your personal AMH tells us a lot about your fertility, including whether certain medicines could be helpful for your PCOS symptoms.

  • Pink Circle
    AFC Transvaginal scan

    The antra follicle count (AFC) scan is an ultrasound that helps us see if you have extra follicles, which is a sign of PCOS. It can also show whether you have any cysts that may need treatment.

  • Orange Circle
    Fertility tests for your partner

    If you’re trying to get pregnant with a male partner, it’s a good idea to check whether there are any fertility problems contributing on their side. A sperm analysis checks that the size, shape and mobility of their sperm are normal.

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Check your fertility

If you're unsure about your fertility or have symptoms like irregular periods, a fertility assessment is a great first step in getting personalised fertility support.

Fertility treatments for PCOS

Not everyone with PCOS needs fertility treatment. We're here to help you explore ways to improve your chances of pregnancy, whether that's lifestyle support, medicines to help with symptoms, or taking the next step with IVF.

Weight loss

If you're above your healthy BMI, losing weight can improve the symptoms and long-term risks of PCOS, as well as your fertility. Learn more about nutritional therapy for fertility.

Medicine

Your consultant may offer medicines to induce ovulation like Clomifene or Letrozole. Metformin is another option that can encourage regular monthly ovulation and reduce insulin resistance to help improve fertility.

IVF

IVF is one of the most successful and commonly used fertility treatments, and it can be optimised for people with PCOS. Learn more about IVF.

Treating your PCOS can also reduce the risk of any complications during pregnancy.


If you have PCOS, it’s important to receive personalised, specialist fertility treatment, as you may be more sensitive to IVF.


We're proud to have helped many people with PCOS to become parents and continue to provide tailored treatment programs for those with the condition.

Read our patient stories from people with PCOS

- Madeline, who had successful IVF at TFP Oxford Fertility Clinic. -

“I had a range of tests, which revealed that I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which explained my irregular periods.”

- Charlotte, who took her PCOS fertility journey with TFP Wessex fertility. -

"The doctors and nurses knew the exact level of treatment that would be required, and were likely to work for us”

- Gemma, who had IVF with PCOS at TFP Wessex Fertility -

"I needed IVF because of my PCOS and then something amazing happened”

- Joanna, who had success with metformin and IVF for her polycystic ovaries -

“It all went so smoothly. The staff were so kind and professional that I didn’t have to worry about anything.”

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Take the next step in your fertility journey

One of the most challenging aspects of PCOS can be its potential impact on fertility. If you’re looking for support on your fertility journey – whether that’s advice, a fertility assessment, or looking to explore fertility treatments, our team of experts are here to offer personalised care tailored around you.

FAQs

What are the chances of getting pregnant with PCOS?

It’s hard to give an estimate of success rates for PCOS because it depends on how the condition affects you and the chosen treatment.

Studies show that IVF tends to work just as well for people with PCOS than people without.

Is IVF safe with PCOS?

IVF can be a safe and effective treatment for people with PCOS. Our specialists are experienced in checking hormone levels and tailoring the dose of IVF hormones to you.

There is a small risk of overstimulating your ovaries. This is a rare but serious complication that can affect anyone having IVF, though it is more common with PCOS.

Can I have a fertility assessment if I’m on the contraceptive pill?

Some people take the contraceptive pill for PCOS, which can temporarily reduce AMH levels.

You can still have an AMH test if you are using hormonal contraception.

This is because it's uncertain whether everyone’s AMH will be lowered by contraception.

If you are currently using any hormonal contraception and have been thinking of coming off it, you may prefer to wait a month or so after stopping contraception to test your hormones for the most accurate insight.

Always talk to your GP before stopping any treatment for PCOS.

Is there anything else I can do to increase my fertility?

You can support your fertility through healthy lifestyle choices, including:

  • Healthy BMI

  • Healthy well-balanced diet

  • Regular exercise regimen

  • No smoking

  • Sensible alcohol

  • Reduced caffeine intake

  • Preconception supplements - Folic Acid and vitamin D

Meet our PCOS specialists

Garima Srivastava

Dr Garima Srivastava

Consultant Fertility Specialist

Alex-Swanton

Dr Alex Swanton

Consultant

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