Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is super-common, affecting between 8 and 20 percent of women of reproductive age, according to the National Institutes of Health. “When you do an ultrasound, you’ll see small follicles on the outside of the ovary,” says Etkin-Kramer. “There’s a disconnect between your pituitary gland and ovaries that messes with ovulation.”
Because PCOS can make it hard to get pregnant, and there are effective treatments, it’s important to let your doc know if you have symptoms, which include irregular periods, new hair growth, unexplained weight gain, and excessive acne. Your gyno may do some blood work or an ultrasound to get to the bottom of it and recommend treatments, including weight loss and medications.
One note before we go: Pap smears are still important, as they can help detect and/or preventing cervical cancer—no small feat! Women ages 21 to 29 should see their doc for a Pap every three years, according to the American Cancer Society. Etkin-Karmer says that, for those over 30, doctors have recently started combining Pap smears with human papillomavirus (HPV) screenings (known as co-testing) every five years. Since two strains of HPV cause an estimated 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases, according to the World Health Organization, testing for it is an earlier and more accurate way to pick up abnormalities that could lead to cervical cancer.