Sexual Health Q&A

What are some of the physical complications of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have problems with ovulation that are believed to be linked to hormonal imbalances. Some common issues associated with PCOS include irregular menstrual periods, excessive hair growth, acne, and obesity.

PCOS can also elevate a woman’s risk for other medical conditions and situations, such as the following:

Endometrial hyperplasia. The endometrium is tissue that lines the uterus. During a typical menstrual cycle, a hormone called progesterone causes the endometrium to “shed” if an egg has not been fertilized. The endometrium dissolves and leaves the body through menstruation. Some women with PCOS don’t make enough progesterone for this shedding to occur. When this happens, the endometrium can remain in the uterus and thicken over time. If it thickens too much, the condition is called endometrial hyperplasia.Women with endometrial hyperplasia may be at higher risk for endometrial cancer.

Infertility. Because of ovulation problems, PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women.

Problems with pregnancy. Pregnant women with PCOS have a higher risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, premature birth, and preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure). Their babies may be more likely to have health complications as well.

Diabetes and pre-diabetes. Women with PCOS often have problems with insulin and are more likely to develop diabetes.

Heart problems. Heart disease and high blood pressure are common in women with PCOS. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women with PCOS are at higher risk of heart attack than women of the same age without PCOS.

Anxiety and depression. The health complications of PCOS can make women anxious and depressed. To learn more about the emotional and psychological effects of PCOS, please click here.

High cholesterol. Women with PCOS may have too much “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and not enough “good” cholesterol (HDL).

Sleep apnea. Women may find that their breathing temporarily stops many times during the night as they sleep.