Managing PCOS With Reproductive Technology

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that creates problems in the ovaries. With PCOS, the egg may not develop or release properly during ovulation. Symptoms include irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, obesity, and more. As a result, PCOS makes planning for in vitro fertilization (IVF) challenging to say the least. While overall rates depend on background and health history, countless women across the United States and beyond rely on reproductive technology to conceive. With over 1 million babies delivered thanks to fertility treatments, aspiring parents can achieve pregnancy with assisted reproductive technology (ART). From IVF and ART to donor eggs and frozen sperm, reproductive technology can help women with PCOS conceive successfully.

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How PCOS impacts fertility

In cases of PCOS, the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. Impacting ovulation, androgens cause cysts to grow around the ovaries. Common PCOS symptoms include irregular periods, enlarged ovaries, excessive body hair, weight gain, and infertility. ART medications can help ovaries release eggs normally. However, fertility medications come with side effects such as bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, upset stomach, hot flashes, mood swings, and multiple pregnancies.

Getting pregnant

While some ART medications run the risk of multiple pregnancies, a specific strategy helps minimize the risk for women with PCOS. Elective single-embryo transfer (eSET) is a procedure where a pre-selected embryo is placed either in the uterus or directly into the fallopian tube. Rather than implanting two or more embryos, eSET transfers a single embryo when multiple embryos are available. Depending on needs, the selected embryo could be from a previous IVF cycle or a current IVF cycle that produced more than one viable embryo. In many cases, extra viable embryos may be set aside for future use or preservation by freezing. For women with PCOS on fertility medication, eSET maximizes the chance of pregnancy while reducing the odds of multiple pregnancies.

Successfully managing infertility

Caused by a diverse number of environmental and genetic factors, PCOS causes discomfort for countless women across the US. By the time a woman is ready for pregnancy, a set number of eggs, or opportunities remain for conception. PCOS and the condition’s negative impact on fertility make the set number of opportunities all the more important. However, reproductive technology can help maximize every opportunity for conception.

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