PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, affects up to 15-percent of the female population. Women with the condition tend to have irregular periods, fertility problems, weight gain and excessive facial hair growth. Though pregnancy can occur naturally and with the help of fertility treatments, there may be increased risk of pregnancy complications associated with the disorder.

Women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and premature delivery. Children born prematurely are at increased risk of health problems during infant, child, teen and adult years. Moreover, infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to weigh more than infants born to healthy mothers. Gestational diabetes can cause premature delivery and difficulty during vaginal birth due to increased fetal size.

Researchers believe women diagnosed with PCOS need to be carefully monitored during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications.

A study included more than 3,500 diagnosed with PCOS and nearly 1.2 million women without the condition. Pregnancy complications and childbirth complications were compared during the study. All factors that could alter the study outcomes were taken into consideration, including age at conception and maternal weight.

According to researchers, women with PCOS were more likely to have fertility treatments and tended to be overweight. The same women were 45-percent more likely to suffer from preeclampsia compared to healthy pregnant women. Overweight and obese women with PCOS were more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes, thus causing an increased risk to the fetus during childbirth.

The close monitoring needed to reduce the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications would place women with PCOS in the high-risk category. This could mean additional doctor’s visits, closer monitoring of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes risk and additional ultrasounds during the pregnancy. According to researchers involved with the study, “These women may need increased surveillance during pregnancy and childbirth. Future research would benefit from focusing on glucose control, medical treatment and hormonal status among women with polycystic ovary syndrome during pregnancy.”

Despite the research findings, not all doctors are convinced the link between PCOS and pregnancy / childbirth complications are founded. Some concluded that further research is needed to understand the role of PCOS in pregnancy complications.

Source: Nathalie Roos, Helle Kieler, Lena Sahlin, Gunvor Ekman-Ordeberg, Henrik Falconer, Olof Stephansson. BMJ. 13 October, 2011.