PCOS: Improving Fertility

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a difficult time getting pregnant. In a study released this week, researchers reported that exercise and a healthy diet directly improve these women’s chances of getting pregnant and having a successful delivery.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which imbalanced hormones lead to enlarged ovaries and numerous cysts on the ovaries. There is often an associated change in menstrual cycles and other health problems such as excessive hair growth.

PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women. Although the body attempts to release numerous eggs from the ovaries, they are often not released at the appropriate time. When they are released, hormones to support the natural process of conception may not be present.

PCOS has mostly been managed by birth control pills, with the goal of controlling hormone levels and some of the secondary symptoms. However, this approach does not appear to normalize the ovaries’ ability to release eggs or improve conception once the birth control pills are stopped.

Diet, Exercise Highly Successful

shutterstock_249233002In the study out of Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, PA women were placed into three groups.

Group 1: took birth control pills for 4 months, then stopped in order to resume normal menstrual cycles.

Group 2: took birth control pills plus dieted and exercised for 4 months, then stopped the birth control pills.

Group 3: only dieted and exercised and did not take any birth control pills.


By the end of the study the highest number of pregnancies with successful deliveries was in the group of women who only dieted and exercised and took no birth control pills.

The second highest number of full term pregnancies was in group 2, the combination treatment.

The lowest number of full term pregnancies was in the hormonal treatment group that did not diet and exercise.

According to the lead researcher: “The findings confirm what we have long suspected – that exercise and a healthy diet can improve fertility in women who have PCOS.”

If you have PCOS and are trying to get pregnant, talk to your care provider about a healthy diet and exercise plan that is appropriate for your body.

The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.


A randomized controlled trial of preconception interventions in infertile women with polycystic ovary syndrome, Richard S. Legro et al., Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2778, published online 24 September 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s