How Does PCOS Affect Menstrual Cycles?

By: Dr. Yehuda Handelsman


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that can affect women who have reached reproductive age, meaning they've begun menstruating and ovulation. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 8 – 13% of women in their reproductive years are affected by PCOS, making it one of the most prevalent endocrine disorders seen in this demographic. While PCOS can cause a number of symptoms and issues, one of the most noticeable symptoms of PCOS is irregular periods. In women with PCOS, periods can be long, heavy, irregular, or even absent from time to time. At Yehuda Handelsman, M.D., Tarzana, CA endocrinologist Dr. Yehuda Handelsman understands the complexities of PCOS and helps patients find the symptom relief they deserve — from improving irregular periods to boosting fertility and more.

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition characterized by hormonal imbalance and metabolic abnormalities that can affect a woman's overall health, fertility, comfort, and even appearance. Women with PCOS may have higher-than-normal male hormone (androgen) levels, and the ovaries often develop excess follicles while failing to regularly release eggs, which can reduce the chances of conception.

What causes PCOS?

There is no definitive cause of PCOS, though there are several factors that may increase a woman's chance of developing PCOS. Some of the contributing risk factors for PCOS include:

  • Genetics
  • Insulin resistance
  • Excess androgen

Poor lifestyle habits, including being overweight, can also increase the risk of PCOS.

Does PCOS cause irregular periods?

Yes, PCOS can cause periods to be irregular. In fact, one of the classic and most common symptoms of PCOS is irregular menstrual cycles. However, PCOS can affect women's periods in different ways, including:

  • Infrequent periods
  • Missing periods
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Prolonged menstrual bleeding
  • Painful periods

Why does PCOS make periods irregular?

These irregularities occur primarily as a result of hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS interfering with ovulation, which is the normal development and release of eggs from the ovaries. Without regular ovulation, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular.

What are the other symptoms of PCOS besides irregular periods?

While irregular periods are a highly common symptom of PCOS, the condition can cause a variety of other symptoms, including:

  • Hirsutism (hair growth on face, chest, back, and other areas)
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Thinning hair
  • Mood changes
  • Infertility and difficulty getting pregnant

How is PCOS treated?

Generally speaking, PCOS treatments aim to manage the symptoms of PCOS, as the condition itself can't necessarily be "cured." However, regulating metabolic abnormalities, and hormone imbalances can help to keep symptoms under control. Following a thorough consultation, review of health history, and other diagnostic tools — like imaging studies and lab work, if necessary — Dr. Handelsman will recommend the most appropriate PCOS treatment possible for you. In many cases, a combination of treatments along with dietary and lifestyle medications offers the best possible chance at PCOS symptom relief. These may include:

  • Birth control
  • Medications for insulin resistance
  • Hormone therapy
  • Weight loss
  • Healthy dietary medications
  • Regular exercise

In many cases, PCOS treatment helps to regulate a woman's cycle, which can make periods lighter and more regular while also improving her fertility, reducing unwanted hair growth, and boosting her quality of life overall.

Don't let PCOS control your life any longer. With PCOS treatment in Tarzana, CA, you can finally feel like yourself once again

If you are frustrated by irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, weight gain, or infertility related to PCOS — we can help. Take the first step toward getting your PCOS under control and living the life you want by calling Yehuda Handelsman, M.D. to schedule your consultation for a PCOS evaluation in Tarzana, CA with Dr. Yehuda Handelsman today.

*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.