History of PCOS

Do you know when was the first time PCOS came into being? And do you ever wonder why it survived evolution in spite of reduced fecundity (ability to reproduce)? I recently found a research regarding the same and the results were pretty interesting so I figured I would share it with you here.

There are different shreds of evidence regarding the existence of PCOS in the past even though the actual syndrome was described in the year 1935 by Stein and Leventhal which is why it was called Stein-Leventhal syndrome initially but the first case with the similar signs as PCOS was actually documented in Italy during somewhere around the 1700s.

But even before that, the great scientists and physicians like Hippocrates and Soranus of Ephesus talked about the women with the period for less than 3 days, sturdier physical appearance and who are more masculine (with male-like hair growth pattern). The famous surgeon Ambroise Pare also mentioned it in his book.

So the question arises – Why and how PCOS has been able to make its way through generations for approximately 2 millennia? You can find the actual research here but in case you are wondering, I will highlight the important points below :

  • The women with PCOS have greater sturdiness which means during the Paleolithic era before when agriculture and farming came into being, they could survive the physical stress and scarcity of food much better than their normal female counterpart. They had better physical strength. Survival of the fittest you see 😉


  • Women with PCOS also had better energy utilization because of increased insulin resistance so when the starvation was encountered, they survived it better. The research also outlines how this could be an added advantage for their progeny who was conceived and exposed to difficult intrauterine environment.


  • Women with PCOS have also shown reduced perinatal mortality through the years mainly because of their strength to survive physically demanding environment creating a source of capable childrearing labor not focused on or threatened by the pregnancy.


  • This particular research even points towards how variable rate of obesity throughout the world doesn’t necessarily affect the incidence of PCOS.


  • Another great point to note in this research was ‘how the women with PCOS are subfertile and not infertile‘. In fact, with reduced BMI and better lean body mass, these women can actually have a normal fertility.


  • Last but not the least, this research outlines why PCOS alleles could have survived the Neolithic era wherein there was an abundance of food and agriculture was popular.

This was a really an interesting read to me because all we always hear is ‘how difficult it is to thrive with PCOS’ and hey, I am not denying that either but learning about the possibility that when an actual demanding environment is encountered, we might be able to survive it better makes me wonder a little bit –  Maybe we really are the fighters! What do you ladies say?

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