10 Things You Should Not Do When You Have PCOS

Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) presents many challenges, but there are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself healthy and minimize your risk of developing complications later in life. Check out this list of 10 things you shouldn't do when you have PCOS.



Close up of cigarette in woman's hand

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Smoking can increase your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. You are at a much higher risk of developing those conditions as well as metabolic syndrome when you have PCOS, so do yourself a favor and skip behaviors that will only make that risk higher.

Check with your healthcare provider if you need help kicking the habit.


Eat High-Sugar Foods

Woman furtively takes a doughnut in the office break room.

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PCOS is linked to insulin resistance. This alters the way your body is able to process and deal with sugar. If left unchecked, insulin resistance can lead to diabetes and significantly worsen complications.

This isn’t to say that you have to avoid all sugars or switch to artificial sweeteners, but focus on eating natural and whole foods and try to eliminate as many processed foods as possible from your diet.


Be a Couch Potato

woman watching TV on the couch

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Exercise is a key part of being healthy for every person. And when you have PCOS, it’s especially important to help lower your risk of heart disease and obesity.

There’s no need to join a gym, get all kinds of fancy equipment, or even spend hours working out. Instead, try to spend 30 minutes a day, a few times a week, walking. Make it fun by walking at a park, at your local mall, or with friends. Lifting weights is also a great way to add muscle, which will increase your metabolism, and improve insulin.


Skip Doctor's Appointments

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Your healthcare provider can help you monitor for complications and keep you healthy. The scheduled visits are important to keep track of your health and make sure that you stay symptom-free. This is especially important if you are undergoing infertility treatment. Some medications can cause severe complications and you need to be monitored.


Forget to Keep Track of Your Periods

woman looking at calendar

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Not having regular periods can put you at risk for endometrial cancer. Though rare, frequent missed periods can increase your chance of developing this complication. When life gets busy, it can be easy to lose track of when your last period was, but designate a special place or calendar to mark it down.

Let your healthcare provider know if you are consistently missing periods or if there are more than 40 to 50 days between them.


Ignore Your Symptoms

Woman sitting on bed, sad

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The good thing about PCOS is that there are a lot of medications and treatment options available. There’s no need to disregard your symptoms or assume that they are something that you just have to deal with.

Check in with your healthcare provider regularly to discuss your symptoms, and don’t be afraid to say that the treatment isn’t working.


Underestimate Your Need for Sleep

Sleep disturbances worsen depression.

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People with PCOS have an increased risk of sleep disturbances, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep is important. Not having enough of it can interrupt the hormones that control your hunger. This can lead you to consume more calories, typically not from healthy foods.

Getting enough sleep can actually help you lose weight and make you feel better. Most people need six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.


Take Your Medication Irregularly

woman taking medication

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Medications, like the birth control pill, work best when taken as prescribed and at regular intervals. Skipping doses or not taking it regularly can make the medication ineffective, or even dangerous.

For example, taking metformin if you are not planning on eating can cause your blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. Make sure you understand how and when to take your medication when you pick it up from the pharmacy.


Ignore Symptoms of Depression

Caucasian woman sitting in armchair holding legs

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Depression isn’t just something you can "snap out of." It is a serious condition that needs to be addressed by a mental health professional. It is known that people with PCOS are significantly more likely to have problems with depression.

If you think you might be depressed and are experiencing symptoms like sadness, difficulty eating or sleeping weight loss or gain, or sleeping and eating too much, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider or make an appointment with a counselor.


Keep It to Yourself

woman in pain and upset in bed

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PCOS can be a challenging condition, and having a good support structure is crucial. So, if you don’t know anyone else who has PCOS or don't have anyone with whom you talk about it, find a support group.

There are many organizations that offer places where you can meet other women with PCOS. Check in with your healthcare provider for ideas, too.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Marshall JC, Dunaif A. Should all women with PCOS be treated for insulin resistance? Fertil Steril. 2012;97(1):18-22. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.036

  3. Khademi A, Alleyassin A, Aghahosseini M, Tabatabaeefar L, Amini M. The effect of exercise in PCOS women who exercise regularly. Asian J Sports Med. 2010;1(1):35-40. doi:10.5812/asjsm.34874

  4. Dumesic DA, Lobo RA. Cancer risk and PCOS. Steroids. 2013;78(8):782-5. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2013.04.004

  5. Fernandez RC, Moore VM, Van Ryswyk EM, et al. Sleep disturbances in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: prevalence, pathophysiology, impact and management strategies. Nat Sci Sleep. 2018;10:45-64. doi:10.2147/NSS.S127475

  6. Kerchner A, Lester W, Stuart SP, Dokras A. Risk of depression and other mental health disorders in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a longitudinal study. Fertil Steril. 2009;91(1):207-12. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.11.022

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."