Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a condition in which a women has high androgen levels (male hormones) causing a hormonal imbalance.  The hormone imbalance creates problems in the ovaries. With PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should.  About 1 in 10 women have PCOS.

Who Gets PCOS?

Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk for PCOS, but your risk is higher if you are obese or you have a mother, sister or aunt with PCOS.

What are the Symptoms of PCOS?

Women may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Too much hair on face, chin or other parts of the body where men usually have hair
  • Acne on face, chest and upper back
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain
  • Darkening of skin along neck, in the groin, or under the breasts
  • Skin tags in the armpits or neck area

What Causes PCOS?

  • High levels of androgens-which cause most of the symptoms of PCOS
  • High levels of insulin causing insulin resistance which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes

Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?

Yes. Having PCOS does not mean you can’t get pregnant but it is one of the most common but treatable causes of infertility in women. Your provider can talk to you about ways to help you ovulate and to increase your chance of getting pregnant.

Does PCOS increase my risk for other Health Problems?

Yes, there are links between PCOS and other health problems including:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Unhealthy cholesterol
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Endometrial Cancer

How is PCOS Diagnosed?

  • Physical Exam
  • Pelvic Exam
  • Pelvic Ultrasound
  • Blood test to check hormone levels, cholesterol and tests for diabetes or insulin resistance

What are the Symptoms of PCOS?

Irregular period including period that come too often, not often enough or not at all
High androgen levels such as hair growth (hirsutism), acne, or thinning scalp hair
Higher than normal androgen blood levels
Multiple cysts on one or both ovaries

How is PCOS Treated?

There is no cure for PCOS but you can manage the symptoms of PCOS.


  • Hormonal birth control or IUD
  • Anti-androgen medications
  • Metformin
  • Slowing hair growth with medication skin treatment

Life Style Changes:

  • Losing weight (10% and make your menstrual cycle more regular and increase the chance of  getting pregnant
  • Exercise
  • Other: Hair removal with hair removal creams, laser hair removal or electrolysis

How Does PCOS Affect Pregnancy?

Women with PCOS have increased rates of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Cesarean section
  • Macrosomia (large babies)


ACOG (June 2017) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) FAQ 121. Printed from www.ACOG/PCOS

Womenshealth.gov (2017).Polycystic Ovary  Syndrome. www.womenshealth.gov/a-ztopic/polycysitc-ovary-syndryme

Blog written by Colette Blanchard, NP

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