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PCOS, Weight, and Infertility

Written in partnership with Dr. Daniel Dumesic, UCLA Fertility and Reproductive Center, October 3, 2014

Up to 10 percent of all women of reproductive age have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), making it the most common hormonal abnormality in this age group.

PCOS is characterized by:

  • Overproduction of the male hormone testosterone
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism (excess hair growth)
  • Lack of ovulation
  • Enlarged ovaries that contain multiple small follicles

Women with severe PCOS have the above symptoms, plus:

  • Higher body mass index (BMI) and total abdominal fat
  • Resistance to insulin
  • More severe risk factors for diabetes
  • More severe risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Weight gain can affect the severity of PCOS and worsen reproductive and metabolic abnormalities. As a result, PCOS is a risk factor for infertility, obstetrical complications, diabetes and heart disease.

PCOS and Infertility

Once PCOS is diagnosed it can be treated with an individualized protocol. For women who are trying to conceive, that includes restoring ovulation.

For overweight women with PCOS, the combination of diet and exercise often helps promote regular ovulation. For others, fertility drugs such as Clomid or injectable gonadotropins are necessary. Some doctors have success in treating patients with Metformin, an insulin sensitizing drug that lowers insulin levels. Because most women with PCOS will begin to ovulate with drug therapy, additional treatment is usually not necessary. In some instances, however, surgery or in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be required.

PCOS Clinical Trial

Dr. Daniel Dumesic, within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA, is conducting a PCOS research study to learn more about how body fat affects women’s health. Participants will undergo medical testing at no cost, and may be paid a fee for participation.

To be eligible, women must meet the following criteria:

  • Non-Hispanic, Caucasian ethnicity
  • Between the ages of 18-35
  • BMI between 18.5-25
  • Not pregnant or planning to get pregnant

The study will involve:

  • Removing a small amount of fat from your abdomen
  • Glucose tolerance testing
  • Ovarian ultrasound
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulation testing
  • Scan for total body fat
  • MRI for abdominal fat

Women with PCOS will take a pill daily for six months: Flutamide, a drug that temporarily blocks the action of male hormones in women, or a placebo (sugar pill). At the end of six months, they will repeat the above tests.

To contact a member of the study team for more information, including whether you may be eligible, email or call 310.825-5255. Refer to IRB# 12-001780.


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