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Effects of PCOS on Pregnancy

author image Jordan Bucher
Jordan Bucher is a journalist in Austin, Texas who has been writing professionally since 1998. She is also an AFAA-trained group exercise instructor and a DONA-trained postpartum doula. She holds a BA in English from Carleton College and a certificate from The University of Denver Publishing Institute.
Effects of PCOS on Pregnancy
PCOS may complicate a pregnancy. Photo Credit pregnant #8 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormone imbalance that affects 5 to 10 percent of women, according to BabyCenter. Women with PCOS have significant fertility challenges, specifically a failure to ovulate most menstrual cycles. Once a woman with PCOS does get pregnant, the focus shifts to maintaining the pregnancy, as she has a one in five chance of miscarriage, says BabyCenter. Women with PCOS should already be in close contact with a doctor, and that contact will increase throughout the high-risk pregnancy.


Pregnant women with PCOS are at greater risk for developing preeclampsia, or pregnancy induced hypertension. Because the blood pressure is so high in preeclampsia, the fetus may not survive. Bed rest and medication are the recommended course of treatment. Because of the heightened sense of emergency, women with preeclampsia are more likely to have their labors induced and their babies born by cesarean section.

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women with PCOS also have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes, which, as the term suggests, is temporary and lasts only as long as the pregnancy. A pregnant woman with gestational diabetes stops producing enough insulin to process sugar. When the body can no longer process sugar, the baby may grow large enough to complicate delivery. Therefore, women with gestational diabetes must eliminate sugar from their diets completely. These women are at greater risk for premature delivery, cesarean birth and fetal death, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

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Premature Delivery

Premature delivery is defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation, or three weeks early, and is a significant risk for a woman with PCOS. A fetus may even be viable as early as 24 weeks gestation. Premature delivery is the number one cause of infant death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women who are at risk for premature delivery will usually show other signs, such as contractions and a dilated or effaced cervix. Treatment involves bed rest and medication.

Excess Hair Growth

Women with PCOS experience excess body hair growth, usually on the face, chest and stomach. The unwanted hair may increase with the fluctuating hormones of pregnancy. The medication used to control hair growth that was safe before pregnancy is no longer an option, according to the American Pregnancy Association, as it poses risks to the fetus. Women with PCOS may opt for electrolysis or waxing during pregnancy.

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