Women with PCOS were more likely to begin fertility treatment with ovulation induction compared to those without PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects approximately 5 million females in the United States and is one of the most common causes of female infertility. Along with other complications, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a large percentage of individuals living with PCOS have irregular or no ovulation, making it difficult to conceive.
Clinical guidelines1 recommend a stepwise approach to fertility treatments for individuals with PCOS that consists of with less invasive ovulation induction methods recommended as first-line options and in vitro fertilization reserved as a last resort.
In a study recently published in the journal Fertility and Sterility,2 researchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, evaluated the fertility treatment pathways used by participants with and without PCOS to determine which pathways resulted in more live births.
Lead investigator Katrina M. Moss, PhD, and her colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study using survey data collected between 1996 and 2022 from females born between 1973 and 1978 who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. The researchers also used linked data on fertility treatments between 1996 and 2021.
A total of 1,109 eligible participants accessed fertility treatment during the study period. These included ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization. Of the 1,109 participants, 10% had PCOS, and 25% of those who sought fertility treatment had PCOS.
The results showed that participants with PCOS were more likely to begin fertility treatment with ovulation induction compared with those without PCOS (71% versus 36%). Of those with PCOS who began treatment with ovulation induction, 46% went on to more escalated fertility treatments. However, fewer participants with PCOS required in vitro fertilization compared to females without the condition (51% versus 71%).
Overall, 63% of participants who accessed fertility treatment had a live birth, and birth rates were similar regardless of the fertility treatment pathway. Participants with PCOS also had birth rates equivalent to those without PCOS.
Moss and the researchers conclude that individuals with PCOS are not disadvantaged when starting fertility treatment with less invasive methods as outlined in clinical guidelines.