PCOS and Stress

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also referred to as PCOS, is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. The condition is recognised by the physical symptoms individuals display and is diagnosed in the same way using the Rotterdam criteria below. An individual must meet at least 2 of the following 3 criteria:

• Anovulation or irregular menstrual cycles

• Excess androgen hormones

• Polycystic ovaries

But what about the less visible factors, such as stress?

PCOS and stress

Stress can have an impact both on the cause and worsening of PCOS. In fact, individuals with PCOS may be found to have elevated levels of cortisol and additional stress hormones, including being more sensitive to the impacts of stress, compared to individuals without the condition.

So how are the two interlinked?

Increased stress, can disrupt the hormonal balance increasing the levels of testosterone. This elevated testosterone is a key mechanism associated with hyperandrogenism, which is a factor in PCOS diagnosis. It can impact symptoms such as acne, hair growth and hair loss.

Cortisol is also found to impact insulin sensitivity, resulting in blood glucose levels remaining elevated, another associated factor in PCOS.

How to manage stress in PCOS

Whilst, if you have been diagnosed with PCOS you may be more prone to stress and its effects, lifestyle changes such as stress management techniques can be successful in helping you to actively manage the condition. Studies have shown stress management techniques such as mindfulness and yoga can be beneficial in improving both the physical and psychological impacts of stress.


  1. Nidhi et al., 2012

  2. Stefanki et al., 2015

  3. Basu et al., 2018

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