The PCOS Stress Link: PCOS causes stress, stress causes PCOS?

The big question: PCOS stress and your body…

Good or bad?

The answer might surprise you!

How PCOS and stress act like, and exacerbate, each other

The stress response is a primitive survival tool that mobilizes your body’s resources to fight or flee. Your adrenal glands release stress hormones in response to a real or perceived danger.

This is designed to be a temporary measure to get you safely through a crisis, however, modern stressors are rarely of the life-and-death variety.

So as the same chemical changes occur continuously, without the break to recover that nature intended, we run low, feel exhausted and become unwell.


During a sudden stressful event, the release of stress hormones initiates a cascade of effects such as accelerated breathing and heart rate, increased blood pressure and a surge of energy. You might also feel a knot in your stomach and a sudden urge to use the bathroom. That is the hormones shutting down your digestive tract as you need to reroute your focus to lifesaving activities not digesting your food!

To funnel all available energy toward the emergency at hand, this stress hormone raises your blood sugar levels and alters your immune system function. You make the increased ‘sticky’ stuff that could block a hole should you be bitten by the proverbial tiger (this makes a lot of sense in the short term, but long-term? Sticky stuff coursing through our blood vessels, as you know, is harmful!)

Another way your body conserves energy during stressful intervals is to inhibit reproductive function.  To accomplish this, cortisol blocks a key reproductive hormone known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRh, which stimulates ovulation.

That’s why stress can be so detrimental to those trying to conceive.

PCOS and chronic stress

And it’s also why we must find some calm in the storm of life!

Chronic Stress Can Also Equal Physical Pain

In some women, PCOS stress creates the combination of elevated cortisol, suppressed sex hormones, and increased inflammation creates the ideal conditions for the development of PCOS and its associated pelvic pain.

Chronic stress, whether from a stressful job, an overloaded work and family schedule or an unhealthy relationship, prevent your stress hormones levels from returning to normal.

There is no time to rejuvenate and recover.

This can result in chronically high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and weight gain. Excess adipose, in turn, induces inflammation which causes harmful effects throughout the body – including pain.

Your digestive system, which relies on periods of calm in order to break down, absorb and assimilate nutrients, can develop symptoms of indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

A suppressed immune function can lead to painful yeast and bladder infections.

And underneath all of this?

The hormonal changes that occur in stress and in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have so much in common we would be unwise to dismiss this.

So, in essence, stress is not necessarily bad… in the short term.


If you suffer from PCOS stress, it is key you focus on stress reduction and relaxation.

There, I said it. It’s time for a warm bath and to learn to say no!

You need to find some calm in the storm of life (I promise, it can be done :))

Dr. Rebecca Harwin
Chiropractor & Bestselling Author of Conquer Your PCOS Naturally

P.S. To discover more about stress in PCOS, my article Stress and PCOS… Top 10 Questions About Stress is a perfect read.

P.P.S. You can read more about the nutrients I recommend that may reduce stress and fatigue here.

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