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Women with polycystic ovaries ‘more likely to have pregnancy complications’

Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome should be more closely monitored during pregnancy as they and their babies are at significantly increased risk of experiencing problems, a Swedish study reports.

The higher risk of complications, such as pre-eclampsia and premature birth, was not a result of conceiving through fertility treatment as has been previously suggested, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm concluded.

Pregnant women with polycystic ovary syndrome were 45% more likely to get pre-eclampsia and more than twice as likely to give birth very prematurely or develop diabetes than those without the condition.

The study of 3,787 births among women with the condition and 1,191,336 births without also found a higher risk of babies being born large for gestational age, developing asphyxia during labour and having a low Apgar score at five minutes.

Analysis showed pregnant women with polycystic ovary syndrome more commonly had fertility treatment and were more likely to be obese than those without. But the complications seen could not be explained by these factors,

Professor Nick Macklon, chair in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton, said women with PCOS should be monitored as ‘high risk’ obstetric patients.

BMJ 2011 online 13 October