Fans celebrated when Keke Palmer revealed in December that she's expecting her first child. After all, the 29-year-old has been open in the past about struggling with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, a condition that is a common cause of infertility.
Palmer's news has raised a lot of questions about PCOS and how difficult it may be for someone with the condition to conceive. Having PCOS doesn't mean you can't get pregnant, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health (OASH). However, the hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS interferes with the growth and release of eggs, a process known as ovulation. And, if you don't ovulate, you can't get pregnant.
But pregnancy can and does happen in women with PCOS — it just may be more challenging than in those who don't have the condition, Dr. Priyanka Ghosh of Columbia University Fertility Center tells Yahoo Life.
"While PCOS can make it harder for some women to get pregnant, the good news is, with the help of a fertility specialist, this is something we are usually able to treat and help women achieve healthy pregnancies," she says.
These women with PCOS were able to conceive, although everyone's journey to baby is different. Here's what it's like to get pregnant with PCOS, from women who have been through it.
"We had conversations about how maybe we're not supposed to have kids."
Florida teacher Emily Rodgers was diagnosed with PCOS in 2015, and she tells Yahoo Life that her symptoms came on suddenly. "I went from being a normal, super-healthy active person to gaining 150 pounds with no reason in seven months," she says. Rodgers says she's always had irregular periods, but it wasn't until the weight gain and her deciding to try for a baby that she was diagnosed with PCOS.
Rodgers said she was told to "lose the weight and you'll be fine." She then went through six cycles of an intrauterine insemination (IUI), where doctors took sperm from her husband and placed it in her uterus when she was ovulating, over a three-year period before her doctor recommended that she try in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
At that point, Rodgers said that she and her husband, who is also a teacher, "ran out of money" and "just kind of accepted that it would take a while to save up" for IVF. "We had conversations about how maybe we're not supposed to have kids, and maybe being teachers is our way of having kids," she says. Rodgers and her husband ended up applying for the PCOS Challenge Family Building Grant and actually got it. As a result, they received a cycle of IVF for free.
"It was so completely shocking," Rodgers says of getting the grant. "I didn't expect something like that to happen to me."
Rodgers and her husband started the IVF process in June 2020. She became pregnant that August, but had a miscarriage. No longer entitled to medical care under the grant, he couple did another embryo transfer on their own and suffered another miscarriage before taking a break. The next time they tried, Rodgers got pregnant. In October 2021, her son was born.
"My husband and I have been very open about our story and our struggles," she says. "My son, his smile — he heals every part of me."
"I was told that I had a 50% less chance of getting pregnant compared to other women of my age."
Iesha Vincent was diagnosed with PCOS in 2017 after she first started trying to conceive with her husband. The Philadelphia resident tells Yahoo Life that her diagnosis came after she had ultrasounds done due to irregular periods and difficulty conceiving.
Vincent, 31, says her OB/GYN told her she had a "50% less chance of getting pregnant compared to other women of my age, and that without any fertility assistance, it was almost impossible for me to get pregnant spontaneously." She went on the fertility drug Clomid, which stimulates ovulation, for four months with no success. Vincent says she and her husband decided to try IUI, but she and her husband continued trying to conceive on their own at the same time.
"When I went in for another ultrasound test to check my ovaries, it was discovered that I was actually pregnant," says Vincent, now mom to a 3-year-old boy. "We are planning to try again for our second child in a year or so and will be connecting with our fertility doctor," she adds.
Her advice to other women with PCOS: "Don't get frustrated and feel as if your body is betraying you. It may feel like it's not meant for you to be a mother, but that is not what PCOS means. It just means that you have a different journey than others."
"I was completely not expecting this pregnancy."
Atlanta resident Sarah Cox was first diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager due to irregular periods. "When I was first diagnosed, I was so young that I was not really told any information at all," she tells Yahoo Life. "They put me on birth control immediately and said nothing about trying to get pregnant or trouble trying to get pregnant."
The 35-year-old says that her PCOS diagnosis was later confirmed by a reproductive endocrinologist whom she saw after having no periods while wanting to conceive. "I was having extremely long cycles, if I was having any at all, so we were not really able to actually try since I was not ovulating," she says.
Cox was put on fertility drugs and got pregnant with her son after a failed treatment. "This was followed by three losses, including a chemical pregnancy, a miscarriage and a 32-week stillbirth," she says. Cox and her husband also had a "rainbow daughter," and she's now pregnant with a surprise third baby. "After all we went through to get my other two living children, I was completely not expecting this pregnancy," she says.
"I bawled for three days. I thought I'd never have kids."
Texas resident Candice Carter was diagnosed with PCOS at age 29 when she struggled with weight loss. "I did professional bodybuilding for 12 years," she tells Yahoo Life. "I was getting ready for a competition and the weight was not moving at all, despite eating very healthy and doing tons of cardio." Carter says she eventually saw a doctor, who gave her the diagnosis.
Carter says her doctor told her that she only needed to be concerned about PCOS if she was trying to conceive. "I was terrified," she says. "I was just getting married, and I bawled for three days. I thought I'd never have kids."
Carter spent a year and a half trying to conceive before trying IUI. After two and a half years of that, she and her husband decided to start the process of IVF. "We ended up conceiving while we waited for an IVF consultation appointment," she says.
Carter's son will turn 2 this year. "I did a lot of research about PCOS and that helped me to not feel alone in the process," she says. "I found a community with PCOS Challenge that reassured me that I could have children, it just might take longer than I'd think. That really helped."
"In the past five years, my husband and I have gone through 15 rounds of fertility treatments."
Maine resident Lynne DeGioia was diagnosed with PCOS in 2020 after having irregular periods. "I could have two [periods] in one month or go six months without having a period," she tells Yahoo Life. "I was not ovulating regularly."
The 32-year-old was advised to try IVF "because conceiving naturally was not probable," but she and her husband tried several fertility drugs and IUI before moving on to the more invasive procedure. "In the past five years, my husband and I have gone through 15 rounds of fertility treatments," she says.
"[IVF] was a big financial burden for us as my health insurance does not cover any medical treatment related to IVF," DeGioia says. "This ended up costing us roughly $30,000 out of pocket." But, DeGioia says, she and her husband were "very lucky" to get pregnant on their first round of IVF. Her daughter is now 5 months old.
"Stay optimistic, keep pushing forward ... you will get your miracle baby," she says.
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