Why is Facial Hair Growth a Symptom of PCOS?

Which came first, your hormone imbalance or your polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? High levels of male hormones can disrupt your menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation, and changes to your ovulation cycle can lead to more male hormones. This ongoing cycle makes it hard to pinpoint the beginning, or the cause, of PCOS, but the effects are clear.

At University Reproductive Associates, our team of experts specializes in women’s health and has helped women throughout New Jersey manage and overcome their PCOS symptoms. When fertility is an issue, we can improve ovulation with medication to increase your chances of getting pregnant, or turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF) if necessary. 

But even when fertility is not a concern, some of the other symptoms of PCOS may be. Unwanted facial hair growth is one of the side effects of PCOS that catch many women off guard and cause self-esteem issues that may lead to depression. Here’s why it happens and what you can do about it.

PCOS and hormones

Your ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which keep your periods regular, among other things.

Each month, a couple of other hormones come into play as well: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH triggers your ovaries to make a tiny sac called a follicle filled with fluid and an egg, and the LH tells your ovary when that egg is mature and ready to be released. 

But when you have PCOS, you get a build-up of multiple follicles or cysts in your ovaries with immature eggs, but they don’t mature and release, so you have fewer periods. 

The reason this happens is because of yet another hormone — androgen.

Typically referred to as a male hormone, androgens are present in all women in small amounts, but if you have too much, it interferes with your reproductive system, starting with ovulation. 

Androgen and hair growth

There’s a reason androgen is primarily a male hormone — it’s responsible for the physical characteristics that are classically masculine, including a deeper voice, more muscle mass, higher bone density, and yes, facial hair.

So it stands to reason that if a woman has high levels of androgen, she may notice unwanted hair cropping up on her chin and upper lip.

Technically, the condition is called hirsutism, and it may cause abnormal hair growth on other parts of your body as well, including your arms and abdomen.

Androgen and other side effects

Androgens are a group of male hormones that includes testosterone. When women have elevated levels of androgens, the increased testosterone leads to several physical changes in addition to facial hair growth, such as:

This imbalance also puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, endometrial cancer, and infertility, as well as mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

What you can do about PCOS-related hair growth

Symptoms of PCOS are highly treatable and there are few things you can do today to begin improving your condition. 

First, if you’re overweight, make a commitment to shed some pounds as there is a link between obesity and PCOS. Try a low-carb or low glycemic index diet, which can also help if you have diabetes in addition to PCOS. 

Next, incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Shoot for working up a sweat for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week. By lowering your weight, your hormones may adjust accordingly and solve your facial hair problem at the same time. 

And we can supplement those efforts by balancing your hormones through medication. If infertility is another concern, we can also help increase your chances of pregnancy through ovulation induction and IVF. 

Don’t suffer through PCOS alone. We’re here to help and can relieve your symptoms with lifestyle changes and treatments. Call us today for an appointment at any of our New Jersey locations in Hoboken, Wayne, or Hasbrouck Heights, or book a telehealth consultation and visit us virtually. Just call 201-288-6330 today.

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