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The 5 Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), According to an Ob-Gyn

Popsugar logo Popsugar 12/09/2018 Christina Stiehl
a man standing next to a body of water © Unsplash / Megan Lewis

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a complicated hormonal condition that affects an estimated one in 10 women of childbearing age (five to 12 percent, depending on the population that is sampled). However, these numbers may vary, as many women have PCOS but do not know it. Although PCOS can be diagnosed by a healthcare provider, symptoms often go ignored until a woman tries to get pregnant — 75 percent of women with PCOS struggle to conceive.

Women with PCOS produce more male hormones than usual, which causes enlarged ovaries with multiple small cysts due to the follicles not maturing into eggs.

This leads to a host of physical symptoms, many of which go ignored. Ob-Gyn Nataki Douglas, MD, chair of the Modern Fertility Medical Advisory Board, told POPSUGAR five of the most common symptoms associated with PCOS. If you experience any of these symptoms, she suggests visiting a doctor, ideally someone who is a specialist and familiar with PCOS, hormones, or endocrine functionality who can check for PCOS and offer a proper diagnosis.

Irregular Periods

a person standing posing for the camera: Irregular Periods © POPSUGAR Photography / Diggy Lloyd Irregular Periods

This could mean infrequent periods, no periods at all, or periods lasting a week or longer. Many women with PCOS have fewer than eight periods in a year, according to the Office on Women's Health, or more frequent than every 21 days.


a woman posing for a picture: Acne © POPSUGAR Photography / Diggy Lloyd Acne

This could be acne on the face, chest, and/or upper back. Most of the PCOS-related acne on the face is hormonal acne and located on the chin and around the mouth.


Obesity © POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim Obesity

Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Unwanted weight gain or an inability to lose weight are common symptoms of PCOS.

Thinning Hair

a man standing next to a body of water: Thinning Hair © Unsplash / Megan Lewis Thinning Hair

Thinning hair or hair loss, especially near the temples or a receding hairline, could be symptoms of PCOS.

Excess Hair Growth

a woman standing in a room: Excess Hair Growth © POPSUGAR Photography / Diggy Lloyd Excess Hair Growth

Another common symptom is excess hair growth in places like your face, chest, back, and arms — places where men are more likely to grow hair due to the increase of androgen hormones.

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