Background: Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are usually told that the condition is associated with fertility difficulties. However, little is known about their fertility management including contraceptive use, childbearing desires, and pregnancy outcomes.
Aim: To compare the fertility management experiences and outcomes of Australian women with and without PCOS.
Method: The 2013 Australian electoral roll was used to identify a random sample of 18- to 50-year-old women who were sent the Understanding Fertility Management in Australia survey to be completed anonymously. Factors associated with fertility management and outcomes were identified in multivariable analyses.
Results: Among the 1543 women who completed and returned the survey, 113 (7.3%) reported having PCOS. Women with PCOS reported a similar rate of current contraceptive use as women without PCOS (50.4% vs. 52.6%, p = .66). However, they were significantly younger at first pregnancy (24.9 vs. 26.8 years, p = .015), more likely to have consulted a health professional about fertility management (OR: 3.86, 95% CI: 2.50-5.96, p < .001), and perceive that it would be difficult to conceive (OR: 2.31, 95% CI: 1.41-3.79, p = .001) than women without PCOS. There were no significant differences in the number of desired children, unintended pregnancies, live births, abortions or miscarriages between women with and without PCOS.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that women with PCOS need more nuanced information about their fertility potential. While they may experience fertility difficulties because of their condition, they should also be informed that they can conceive spontaneously and need reliable contraception to avoid pregnancy when it is not wanted.
Keywords: Australia; Polycystic ovary syndrome; childbearing; contraception; unintended pregnancy.