Skip to main content


Close Cart

Your cart is empty.

Shop Oova Kit

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

01.05.2023 / Elinor Hills
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes hormone level imbalances that can affect ovarian function. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility, but it comes with other symptoms that are less commonly discussed. In this guide, we’ll cover:

PCOS defined

Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly abbreviated as PCOS, is a condition that causes an imbalance in hormone levels that can affect ovarian function.

>>MORE: 8 Signs Your Hormones May Be Out of Balance – And What to Do Next.

PCOS can affect anyone with ovaries and is one of the leading causes of infertility. There are three main factors associated with PCOS:

  • Menstrual cycle irregularities like irregular periods or anovulatory cycles (when your ovaries do not release an egg)
  • High levels of androgen, a hormone that is typically more abundant in biologically male bodies
  • Polycystic ovaries

Generally, doctors look for two of these three features to diagnose someone with PCOS, but the condition can also cause many other symptoms. 

Having PCOS and not getting proper diagnosis or treatment may also lead to an increased risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and endometrial cancer. PCOS can also contribute to your mental health and has been linked to increased levels of anxiety and depression.

>>Oova insight: Women with PCOS may be up to four times likely than people without PCOS to develop type 2 diabetes.


PCOS causes

Doctors and researchers still aren’t sure exactly what causes someone to have polycystic ovary syndrome. However, a high level of androgens is a key characteristic of PCOS. Factors like inflammation, genes, and insulin resistance, have been linked to higher levels of androgen. 

Genetic causes

PCOS tends to run in families, which suggests that there may be a genetic component to the condition. Research suggests that multiple genes may contribute to your likelihood of developing PCOS. 

Insulin resistance

Studies suggest that as many as seven in ten people with PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means your cells cannot properly process insulin. Extra insulin in the body can contribute to an increase in androgen production.


Some research suggests that inflammation may play a role in PCOS because it is associated with excess androgen levels. 

PCOS symptoms

The most common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods: People with PCOS often have irregular periods or may not have periods at all.
  • Excess body hair growth: Excess androgens cause excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, and back. 
  • Thinning hair: PCOS can cause hair loss and thinning hair on the scalp.
  • Acne: PCOS most commonly causes acne on the face, chest, and upper back.
  • Weight gain: Many people with PCOS have difficulty losing weight or may gain weight quickly.
  • Infertility: PCOS can make it more challenging to get pregnant due to hormonal imbalances and irregular ovulation.
  • Oily skin: Excess androgen in the body can cause oily skin and dandruff.
  • Darkened skin: PCOS can cause dark patches of skin, particularly on the neck, groin, and underarms. This is due to an excess of insulin in the body, which can be a symptom of PCOS.
  • Mood changes: Some people with PCOS may experience mood changes, including anxiety and depression.
  • Sleep problems: PCOS can cause sleep problems like insomnia.

It is important to note that PCOS is a complex condition and everyone with PCOS is different. It’s even possible to have PCOS and no symptoms at all.

PCOS and fertility

PCOS is a common cause of infertility, with a few aspects of PCOS can make it more difficult for someone to conceive. 

PCOS Infertility Factors

Irregular periods

One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is menstrual cycle irregularity, which can make it more difficult to predict ovulation and time intercourse. People with PCOS may also have anovulatory cycles where ovulation doesn’t occur. Ovulation is the process of the ovary releasing an egg, an essential function that needs to take place to get pregnant.

Hormonal imbalances

People with PCOS can have hormonal imbalances, including an excess of androgens. These imbalances can disrupt the functioning of the ovaries and lead to the development of small cysts on the ovaries. 

Insulin resistance

Many people with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means their bodies cannot use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. This can lead to high insulin levels, stimulating the ovaries to produce more androgens. 


Some research suggests that inflammation may play a role in PCOS’s impact on fertility. If the ovaries are inflamed, they may not function correctly and may not release eggs regularly. Inflammation in the ovaries can also lead to the development of small cysts that disrupt the standard hormonal signals that regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation.

Is it possible to conceive if I live with PCOS?

Yes! Many people with polycystic ovary syndrome do get pregnant. Some people with PCOS even get pregnant without treatment or intervention. 

While PCOS can make getting pregnant challenging, it is not impossible. Many people with PCOS can get pregnant with the help of fertility treatments such as medication or assisted reproductive techniques. 

It’s important to note that everyone is different, and not everyone with PCOS will have difficulty getting pregnant.  

Working with a healthcare provider can help you determine the best treatment plan for you if you’re trying to conceive with PCOS and are having difficulty.

What are the risks of getting pregnant if I have PCOS?

There are several risks associated with getting pregnant when you have PCOS. The most common risks are:

  • Miscarriage
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
  • Large babies and associated delivery risks

It’s important to remember that if you are pregnant and have PCOS, your doctor will monitor these risks closely so that any potential issues are addressed quickly.

PCOS treatment

Treatments for PCOS can include medications, lifestyle changes, or a combination. These options vary based on whether you are trying to get pregnant.

 If you are not actively trying to get pregnant, treatment options include hormonal birth control, medication to manage symptoms, and lifestyle changes.

If you are trying to get pregnant, treatment will focus more on helping you improve fertility by increasing your progesterone levels and stimulating ovulation. Your doctor may recommend supplements and medication. If you don’t respond to drug treatments, you can also try assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

>>MORE: PCOS Treatments: Helping the Whole Person, Not Just Their Symptoms

How can Oova help someone living with PCOS?

Because many people with PCOS do not have regular cycles, or experience anovulatory cycles, relying on traditional ovulation test kits just doesn’t cut it when it comes to tracking your cycle and hormone levels. Oova was designed to work for anyone with a menstrual cycle, not just people with "perfect" 28-day cycles. This makes Oova a great option for people with PCOS.

Oova allows you to track your unique hormone patterns and delivers lab-quality results in real time.


Tracking both luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone can give you a better sense of your menstrual cycle and predict when you are most likely to ovulate. This information can be game-changing if you live with PCOS and are trying to get pregnant.

Measuring your hormones at home can help you manage your health even if you are not trying to conceive. While you view your results in the Oova App, your healthcare provider can see them instantly on our Clinician Dashboard. This allows you and your doctor to work together to monitor your symptoms and response to treatments or lifestyle changes.

PCOS: Takeaways

PCOS is a condition that causes hormone level imbalances that can then affect your ovarian function. The main characteristics of PCOS include menstrual cycle irregularities, high levels of androgen, and polycsyctic ovaries, with symptoms ranging from acne and oily skin to sleep problems and mood changes. 

While we still don’t know what exactly causes PCOS, factors like genetics, inflammation, and insulin resistance have been linked with higher levels of androgen. 

PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility, and while there is no cure for the condition, there are various treatment options if you’re trying to conceive — or if you aren’t! Oova’s test kit can be instrumental in helping you track your unique menstrual cycle and hormone levels to help you manage symptoms as you navigate PCOS.



Life With Oova

Join our community

Share your own stories with #MyFertilityTranslator