PCOS Symptoms

NHS

If you experience symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), they'll usually become apparent in your late teens or early 20s. Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe. Some women only experience menstrual problems or are unable to conceive, or both.

Common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • irregular periods or no periods at all
  • difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or no ovulation)
  • excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
  • weight gain
  • thinning hair and hair loss from the head
  • oily skin or acne

You should talk to your GP if you have any of these symptoms and think you may have PCOS.

Fertility problems

PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. Many women discover they have PCOS when they're having difficulty getting pregnant.

During each menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg (ovum) into the uterus (womb). This process is called ovulation and usually occurs once a month.

But women with PCOS do not ovulate or ovulate infrequently, which means they have irregular or absent periods and find it difficult to get pregnant.

Risks in later life

Having PCOS can increase your chances of developing other health problems in later life. For example, women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing:

  • type 2 diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high
  • depression and mood swings – because the symptoms of PCOS can affect your confidence and self-esteem
  • high blood pressure and high cholesterol – which can lead to heart disease and stroke
  • sleep apnoea – overweight women may also develop sleep apnoea, a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep

Women who have had absent or very irregular periods (fewer than 3 or 4 periods a year) for many years have a higher than average risk of developing cancer of the womb lining (endometrial cancer).

But the chance of getting endometrial cancer is still small and can be minimised using treatments to regulate periods, such as the contraceptive pill or an intrauterine system (IUS).

Useful resources

This Teachers' Maternity Leave Scheme has been updated to reflect the rules concerning...
EA is committed to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and with dignity and...
Cancer Focus NI can provide a wide range of presentations to meet the needs of your...
Sometimes when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy it is difficult to discuss it...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
The Menopause Project is an education and research project between Informing Choices NI...
We all have good and bad days but what and when we eat can influence our mood, energy,...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
Around one in five women will experience a mental health issue during pregnancy or within...
Cancer Focus NI, Keeping Well vans are mobile drop-in units which bring health checks,...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
We are delighted to provide this FREE digital toolkit. Designed in partnership with the...
Affected by breast cancer? Join this group to share experiences and ask questions to...
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
Support for breast cancer
Guided meditations
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Food diary, exercise tracker and diet coach
Support hub for mothers
Track your treatment and wellbeing
Pregnancy and guidance for after birth
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Guided meditations
This short test will help you understand how heavy your periods are, and point you in the right direction for treatment options.
Your Mind Plan offers practical ideas and advice to help you boost and maintain your mental wellbeing. Answer the quick 5-question quiz and the Every Mind Matters widget will give you 5 tailored actions to help you feel more in control, improve your sleep, deal with stress and anxiety, and boost your mood – as well as the option to easily swap any actions and to save the whole plan via email.

Articles & Videos

Helplines & Web Chats

Informing Choices NI - Helpline
Royal Osteoporosis Society - Helpline
Macmillan - Forum
Macmillan - Ask an expert
Women's Aid - Forum
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Women's Aid - Domestic abuse helpline