Characterization of polycystic ovary syndrome among Flo app users around the world

Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2021 Mar 3;19(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s12958-021-00719-y.


Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex and multi-faceted endocrine disorder that affects 5-20% of women. Literature is limited regarding potentially differing PCOS phenotypes among women around the world.

Objective: To use Flo app technology to understand the multifaceted characteristics of PCOS across several countries and identify contributing risk factors to the development of this condition.

Study design: Flo is a widely used female health and wellbeing app with period tracking functionality that provides a globally representative and medically unbiased perspective on PCOS symptomatology. A chatbot dialog on PCOS was subsequently administered on the Flo application (app) to users from 142 countries (with at least 100 respondents) who have the app running in English during September-October 2019.

Results: For analyses, we selected the five countries with the greatest number of respondents: US (n = 243,238), UK (n = 68,325), India (n = 40,092), Philippines (n = 35,131), and Australia (n = 29,926). Bloating was the most frequently reported symptom among PCOS-positive women and appeared to be the main predictor of PCOS in our model (odds ratio 3·76 [95% CI 3·60-3·94]; p < 0·0001). Additional top predictors of PCOS are high blood cholesterol and glucose levels. As BMI increased, the percentage of women who reported a physician-confirmed PCOS diagnosis also increased. However, women in India did not follow this trend.

Conclusion: Our findings are based on the largest known PCOS dataset and indicate that symptoms are more complex than previously understood. The most frequently reported symptoms (bloating, facial hirsutism, irregular cycles, hyperpigmentation, and baldness) are broader than those included in the Rotterdam criteria. Future work should reevaluate and refine the criteria utilized in PCOS diagnosis.

Keywords: BMI; Bloating; Hirsutism; Menstrual cycle tracking; Polycystic ovary syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Hirsutism / complications*
  • Hirsutism / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Menstruation Disturbances / complications*
  • Menstruation Disturbances / physiopathology
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Young Adult