Women with PCOS will suffer from irregular periods, excess androgens (which can cause acne or excess hair growth) and polycystic ovaries. During every menstrual cycle, follicles grow on the ovaries and within these follicles eggs will develop. Usually, one egg reaches maturity faster than the others and it is released into the fallopian tubes – which is known as ovulation. The remaining follicles degenerate after this. However, when a woman has polycystic ovaries the ovaries will be much larger than normal and there will be a series of undeveloped follicles that will appear in clumps.
This doesn’t really cause a problem, unless the cysts start to cause a hormonal imbalance. This is when the body starts to produce more androgens, which are male hormones that lead to the frustrating side effects of PCOS. These male hormones will interfere with the production of the female hormones within your body that are necessary for ovulation.
When your body isn’t ovulating, it will not be producing progesterone which is the hormone that causes the lining of the uterus to thicken. This will result in an absence of periods and irregular menstruation. When you do not ovulate or menstruate, it is just not possible to conceive (learn more in our Conception Basics article).
PCOS also has a lot of negative affects on a woman once she is pregnant. Women with PCOS tend to have a higher rate of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature delivery and preeclampsia- which is pregnancy induced high blood pressure. Also, babies who are born to women with PCOS have a higher risk of spending time in a neonatal intensive care unit or dying shortly after birth. PCOS also puts women at risk for other health problems, including diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Women with PCOS can also develop depression and anxiety.