Prevalence of infertility and use of fertility treatment in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: data from a large community-based cohort study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015 Apr;24(4):299-307. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2014.5000. Epub 2015 Feb 5.


Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 6%-21% of women. PCOS is the primary cause of anovulatory infertility, with major health and economic costs, yet we are unaware of any community-based, natural history studies on fertility and fertility treatments published to date. We aim to compare infertility, fertility treatment use, and relationship to body mass index (BMI) in women reporting PCOS to women not reporting PCOS in a community-based population.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional analysis of a longitudinal cohort study, the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH). For the ALSWH, women from the general community were randomly selected from the national public insurance database. Mailed survey data were collected at multiple time points. At survey 4, there were 9145 respondents aged 28-33 years. Of 8612 women with known PCOS status, 478 women reported having PCOS. Information regarding fertility status was available for 4856 women. This was the subgroup used in this analysis. The main outcomes measures are self-reported PCOS status, BMI, infertility, and use of fertility therapies including ovulation induction and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with infertility and use of fertility treatment.

Results: Self-reported PCOS prevalence was 5.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.3%-6.4%). Infertility was noted by 72% of 309 women reporting PCOS, compared with 16% of 4547 women not reporting PCOS (p<0.001). Infertility was 15-fold higher in women reporting PCOS (adjusted odds ratio 14.9, 95% CI 10.9-20.3), independent of BMI. Of women reporting infertility, there was greater use of fertility hormone treatment, (62%, n=116 vs. 33%, n=162, p<0.001) in women reporting PCOS; however, IVF use was similar.

Conclusions: In this community-based cohort of women, infertility and use of fertility hormone treatment was significantly higher in women reporting PCOS. Considering the prevalence of PCOS and the health and economic burden of infertility, strategies to optimize fertility are important.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy*
  • Logistic Models
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Ovulation Induction* / adverse effects
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult