Flo and Northwestern University PCOS Study: First Results Revealed

    Published 22 July 2020

    Approximately 1 in 10 women at the reproductive age has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). To spread awareness on this topic, Flo and Northwestern University in partnership with Tarun Jain, MD, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, conducted a study on PCOS, launched in October 2019. 

    In this study, PCOS symptoms relative to the country were analyzed to give a clear overview of the condition among users around the world. 

    Now we’re ready to share the results and insights of this research with you.

    Research Overview

    The study was based on a questionnaire, available to Flo users for one month, about PCOS-related symptoms and previous PCOS diagnosis. There were a few criteria for participants:

    • Age 18–44
    • Users who track their cycle or are trying to conceive

    All users in the study agreed to the use of their de-identified data for research purposes.

    PCOS Geographically

    According to the research, most Flo app users who completed the PCOS questionnaire were coming from the following five countries: United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.), India, the Philippines, and Australia.

    On the infographic below you can see the allocation rate of self-reported PCOS cases in percentages among these countries:

    Most Common Symptoms

    Another insight revealed the most common symptoms of PCOS among Flo users. 

    Users with PCOS in the U.S., U.K., and Australia shared the following list of their most predominant symptoms:

    • Bloating
    • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
    • Irregular cycles

    Women with self-reported PCOS in India and the Philippines reported similar symptoms, with an obvious contrast in one specific point — baldness here is a predominant sign as opposed to hirsutism in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. The list of the most commonly reported PCOS symptoms in India and the Philippines looks like this:

    • Bloating
    • Baldness
    • Irregular cycles

    Top Three Predictors of PCOS

    A variety of symptoms as risk factors of PCOS in all studied countries were also analyzed in the research. The three most common signs, or predictors, of PCOS that can signal to check with a doctor, are the following:

    • Hirsutism (excessive body hair growth)
    • High blood glucose 
    • High levels of both cholesterol and glucose

    Other signs of PCOS that the research participants shared include:

    • Acne
    • Skin hyperpigmentation
    • Bloating
    • Heavy menses
    • Baldness
    • Family history of PCOS 
    • Irregular cycles
    • Inability to conceive for > 1 year

    Summing Up

    The research helped to get a more clear picture of PCOS allocation and symptoms worldwide. 

    • As we found from the study, some countries revealed higher PCOS rates than others.
    • People with PCOS share the same most common symptoms worldwide, though there are some distinctive symptoms that might be found within a specific country.
    • There are three main signs as risk factors of PCOS that were found to be common in studied countries: hirsutism (excessive body hair growth), high blood glucose, and high levels of both cholesterol and glucose. These symptoms can help predict the disorder to get early medical assistance, if found.


    Galic, Isabel, et al. “SUN-LB6 Characterization of PCOS Among Flo App Users Around the World.” Journal of the Endocrine Society, Oxford University Press, 8 May 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7208834/. Negris, Olivia, et al. SUN-LB3 Relationship Between BMI and PCOS Symptoms Among Flo App Users in the United States. 8 May 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7208870/.

    History of updates

    Current version (22 July 2020)

    Published (22 July 2020)

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