Despite the fact that it affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, many people have never heard of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). It’s a hormonal disorder, and common symptoms range from irregular periods to bouts of depression and even infertility. Many of the signs of PCOS are similar to those associated with your regular cycle – though much worse – making the disorder extremely difficult to diagnose.

Our fertility nurse consultant, Kate Davies, RN, BSc(Hons), FP Cert, spoke with the Dr. Oz show about 7 signs of PCOS that you should not ignore. According to Kate, it can take up to 13 years on average to receive a definitive diagnosis of PCOS. A few of the symptoms you should look out for include….

Irregular Periods

This is the most common sign of PCOS, and 90% of women with irregular periods will have PCOS. Irregular periods could also be a sign of thyroid disorders or other conditions, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice lengthy or absent periods. 

Depression / Anxiety

According to the Journal of Reproduction & Infertility, 36% of women with PCOS suffer from high levels of stress. As stress can be attributed to so many other factors, it is often overlooked and therefore untreated. 

Excessive Body Hair Growth

PCOS can cause hirsutism, which is the excessive growth of facial and body hair on women. This is a result of high androgen, or male hormone, levels in women with PCOS. Women with PCOS may also notice a thinning of hair on their scalp.

Insulin Resistance

Evaluating insulin levels in the body is a common method for diagnosing PCOS, as nearly 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which affects how their body regulates blood sugar levels. According to Kate, more research needs to be done to better understand how this affects a woman’s ability to conceive.

The best thing you can do if you are experiencing these symptoms is talk to your doctor as soon as you notice them. PCOS is a manageable condition, and taking back control and getting the right support can make a huge difference to your health in the future.

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