Living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be difficult.

It is like your own hormones are plotting against you!

If you’re one of the millions of women living with PCOS, you know exactly what we mean.

This tricky hormonal disorder could cause a range of annoying symptoms, such as irregular periods, ovarian cysts, androgen excess and stubborn weight gain.

But you’re not alone in this battle. There is all the help available to manage your condition.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what PCOS means, uncovering its causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries, causing them to produce higher than normal levels of androgens (male hormones).

Women with PCOS have an imbalance of hormones that could lead to a host of symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain and difficulty getting pregnant.

It is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women of reproductive age, affecting up to 10% of women worldwide.

Understanding the Symptoms of PCOS

We understand the the difficulties of womanhood – period pain, mood swings and a surprise visit from Aunt Flo!

But what if your menstrual cycle is anything but predictable?

That’s where polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) makes a mess, wreaking havoc on your hormones and causing a range of naggingly difficult symptoms.

From irregular periods to stubborn weight gain and excess hair growth, PCOS can make you feel like your body is betraying you.

Here is a list of the top symptoms of PCOS that might help you recognise your condition better.

  • Irregular periods: PCOS can cause infrequent or prolonged menstrual cycles or missed periods
  • Androgen excess: This hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms like acne, excess hair growth (hirsutism) and male-pattern baldness.
  • Ovarian cysts: PCOS can cause the development of fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the ovaries, which can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Weight gain: Women with PCOS may have difficulty losing weight or may gain weight easily, particularly around the midsection.
  • Fatigue: PCOS can cause feelings of exhaustion or fatigue, particularly during or after periods of physical exertion.
  • Mood changes: Fluctuations in hormones can cause mood swings, anxiety or depression in some women with PCOS.
  • Fertility problems: PCOS can make it more difficult to conceive a child due to irregular ovulation or other hormonal imbalances.

Risk Factors: Who is at Risk?

When it comes to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), some women are simply more predisposed to developing this hormonal disorder than other women.

And there are other risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing PCOS.

Here is a list of the most common ones.

  • Family history of PCOS
  • Obesity or weight gain
  • Insulin resistance
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Age (PCOS is more common in women of reproductive age)
  • Inflammation (Inflammation could trigger the ovaries to produce more androgen hormones)

The Role of Hormones in PCOS

Hormones play a significant role in the development of PCOS.

Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens (male hormones) than normal, which can disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to symptoms like acne, excess hair growth and irregular periods.

Women with PCOS also have lower levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and higher levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which can prevent the ovaries from producing eggs.

PCOS and Mental Health

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It is also linked to more severe symptoms of these conditions, as well as somatization. Therefore, it may be necessary to screen for these disorders to allow for early intervention.

PCOS and Insulin Resistance

Women with PCOS often have insulin resistance, about 70 percent of them to be precise.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body to use glucose (sugar) for energy.

When a person has insulin resistance, his/her body becomes less sensitive to insulin, and as a result, he/she may develop high blood sugar levels. This can lead to weight gain, difficulty losing weight and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

PCOS Impact on Fertility and Reproductive Health

PCOS can have a significant impact on fertility and reproductive health.

Women with PCOS may have difficulty getting pregnant because they are not ovulating regularly. This can make it challenging to predict when ovulation will occur. And this, in turn, makes it even more difficult to fix the time for intercourse, thus reducing the odds of conceiving.

PCOS can also increase the risk of miscarriage and complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

PCOS and Weight Gain

Weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS, and it can be extremely challenging to lose weight due to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances.

Women with PCOS may also have a higher risk of developing obesity, which can lead to a host of health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

PCOS and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes pauses in breathing during sleep.

Research conducted in clinical settings suggests that women with PCOS are more likely to experience sleep disturbances and disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness, as compared to women without the syndrome.


The diagnosis of PCOS is typically made based on a combination of symptoms, physical examination and blood tests.

The doctor may also perform an ultrasound to look for cysts on the ovaries.

To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman must have at least two of the following three criteria:

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens)
  • Cysts on the ovaries

Treatment Options and Lifestyle Changes

There is currently no cure for PCOS, but there are several ways to manage the symptoms, such as:


  • Medications: Medications to regulate menstrual cycles, reduce androgen levels and improve insulin resistance
  • Hormonal contraceptives: Hormonal contraceptives to regulate menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels
  • Fertility treatments: Fertility treatments, such as ovulation induction and in vitro fertilization (IVF)

Lifestyle Changes

  • Eat healthy: A diet that is low in processed foods and refined sugars, and high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, promote weight loss and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Manage stress: High levels of stress can exacerbate PCOS symptoms, so finding ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises, can be beneficial.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking in women can worsen insulin resistance and increase the risk of heart disease, so quitting smoking is an important step in managing PCOS.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep can help regulate hormone levels and improve insulin sensitivity, so aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol can disrupt hormone balance by increasing estrogen levels, so it is advisable to drastically cut down on its consumption.
  • Consider supplements: Some supplements, such as inositol and omega-3 fatty acids, may be helpful in managing PCOS symptoms, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.

How to Cope with PCOS?

There are several, tested strategies available for women with PCOS, and these might help them cope with their condition better. These are:

  • Connecting with support groups or other women with PCOS
  • Practicing self-care and stress management techniques
  • Educating themselves about the condition and treatment options
  • Setting realistic goals and expectations for treatment and lifestyle changes

Research Advances in PCOS

Research on PCOS is ongoing, and there are several promising treatments on the horizon, such as:

  • Drugs that target insulin resistance and inflammation
  • Gene therapy to correct hormonal imbalances
  • Personalised medicine approaches based on genetic and metabolic profiling


PCOS is a complex hormonal disorder that can have a significant impact on women’s physical and emotional health.

While there is currently no cure for PCOS, there are several ways to manage the symptoms considerably.

With proper diagnosis, treatment and support, women with PCOS can lead healthy and promising lives.


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Sources: Mayo Clinic, Healthline, Cleveland Clinic, WebMD (1, 2, 3), Johns Hopkins, PMC (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), NIH (1, 2).