Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS, can have a major impact on your fertility. If you have PCOS, which affects between 4 and 12 percent of women, according to a February 2004 "Clinical Medicine and Research" article, you may have a difficult time getting pregnant. And, because you probably have irregular menstrual cycles related to the disorder, you might also have trouble recognizing that you're pregnant as early as a woman without PCOS might.
Missing a Period
The classic first symptom of pregnancy -- missing a period -- may be hard to spot if you have PCOS. A woman with PCOS has higher-than-normal levels of male hormones, called androgens, such as testosterone. This hormonal imbalance leads to symptoms such as obesity, acne and excess hair growth. As many as 80 percent of women with PCOS also have irregular menstrual cycles and difficulty becoming pregnant without medical intervention, a February 2004 "Clinical Medicine and Research" article explains. You also may not ovulate, or release a mature egg from the ovary, even if you have fairly regular periods. Irregular menstrual cycles make it hard to recognize when you've missed a period unless you're tracking when you ovulate.
Since women with PCOS often ovulate only, to induce ovulation. If you're under the care of a fertility specialist, she may monitor your menstrual cycle to determine if and when you ovulate. You normally get your period approximately 14 days after ovulation, so if you know that you did ovulate, but don't get your period within two weeks, you might be pregnant.
If your doctor doesn't monitor your menstrual cycle, you can use over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits to determine whether you ovulate. However, since women with PCOS often have higher-than-normal levels of luteinizing hormone, the hormone measured by the kits, start testing early in your cycle so you can detect a rise. Testing just once or twice could give you a falsely high reading that might lead you to think that you're ovulating when you aren't.
Symptoms Related to PCOS Drug Treatments
If you have PCOS, your doctor might prescribe drugs such as metformin (Glucophage) to reduce insulin resistance or induce ovulation. Medications to treat PCOS can cause side effects that might mimic pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting, which affect around 6.5 percent of people taking this drug, according to Bristol-Myers Squibb prescribing information for professionals. You might also experience a metallic taste in your mouth, a distended abdomen, fatigue or weakness, which are also symptoms of early pregnancy.
Symptoms Related to Hormonal Treatment
If you're trying to become pregnant, you may be under the care of a fertility specialist. If you're being treated with progesterone, you might experience tiredness, sore breasts, appetite changes, mood swings and fluid retention as a side effect of the hormone treatments. However, these symptoms can also occur in early pregnancy. A blood test can help determine whether you're pregnant or experiencing medication side effects.
The Importance of Early Pregnancy Care
If you have PCOS and become pregnant, you face a higher risk of complications during the pregnancy. If you're overweight, as occurs in approximately 50 percent of women with PCOS, according to a January 2014 review in "UpToDate," you also have an increased risk of pregnancy complications. Because of your increased risk, see your doctor early in your pregnancy. If you're taking medication such as metformin to treat PCOS symptoms, your doctor might also want you to stop taking it as early as possible during pregnancy.
- Clinical Medicine and Research: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Diagnosis and Management
- Human Reproduction Update: A Meta-analysis of Pregnancy Outcomes in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- NLM Daily Med: Glucophage
- NLM Daily Med: Progesterone
- ACOG Practice Bulletin: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- UpToDate: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome