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Sex & relationships

Symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) such as weight gain, excess hair, hair loss, acne and problems with fertility can affect your relationships with others and your sex life. How to talk with family and friends and explain PCOS is discussed, along with the impact of PCOS on your sex life.

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Talking with family & friends about PCOS

Sometimes it can feel easier not to talk about your condition with those close to you. Perhaps you do not want to burden them with your health problems, or perhaps you feel they won't understand. However, if your family, friend or partner understands more about what you are going through, especially in the long-term, it can make a positive difference to you and your relationship.

Explaining PCOS, and how it affects you, can be difficult, and the decision to tell people close to you is a very personal one. It helps to think about how you will describe the condition and its impact, and whether you think the person will be able to understand and be sympathetic to your situation.

Explaining PCOS

  • First, choose a time that is good for them and you, so they are free from distractions and able to take in what you are telling them
  • Start by explaining the basic physical changes of PCOS – it may help to rehearse it first in your head
  • Offer them written resources to read in their own time, rather than overwhelm them with too much information at once
  • Talk to them about how your experience of PCOS affects you personally, both physically and emotionally
  • Go into as much, or as little, detail as both you, and they, feel comfortable with.

Depending upon the relationship you have with the person you are talking to, and their own personality, they may need different levels of information and may respond in various ways. For example, they may be upset you are suffering, they may not initially understand the magnitude of the condition, or they might feel uncomfortable hearing about a personal health problem. Or they might already know someone who has PCOS and understand more of your journey than you expected.

Communicating with a partner about PCOS

Talking about PCOS with your partner can be difficult, but it can also be a relief to have someone close to you understand what you are going through and support you along the way. Taking your partner to medical appointments can be a good way of increasing their understanding of your condition and the symptoms you are experiencing.

Let your partner know how they can help and support you.

It is important to try to include your partner in your experiences of PCOS as much as possible, as this will help you to feel more supported and reduce the chances of your partner feeling excluded.

PCOS women walking and talking

Healthy sexual relationships

Having healthy and satisfying sexual relationships can be important to overall health and happiness. Many factors influence sexual function, including mood, general wellbeing, self-esteem, medications and past sexual experiences. Studies suggest that women tend to have a higher risk for problems with sexual function compared to men. The most commonly reported problem is a lowering of sexual desire (libido).[1])

PCOS & sex

Women with PCOS report more problems with sexual function. This can be related to some of the symptoms of PCOS, such as being overweight, or acne or excess facial or body hair growth (hirsutism).

Psychological factors in PCOS also contribute significantly, including lowered mood or wellbeing, lower levels of self-confidence or self-esteem, and the impact of having a chronic condition. Having negative feelings about your body can create difficulties during intimate moments with another person.

A number of research studies have found that women with PCOS are less satisfied when it comes to their sex lives. It was shown that hirsutism and being overweight, in particular, cause women to feel less sexual.[2, 3] Other researchers suggest this also has an impact on relationships.[4]

If you feel that PCOS is affecting your sex life and relationship it is important to talk to your doctor. With the right support these issues can be improved, helping you to have a satisfying sexual relationship.

PCOS & contraception

If you have PCOS and need contraception, it is best to discuss the options with your doctor, as treatment for your PCOS may go hand in hand with a method of contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at September 2019.

References

  • 1
    Monash University. International evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. 2018. Melbourne, Australia.
  • 2
    Laumann EO, Paik A, Rosen RC. Sexual dysfunction in the United States: prevalence and predictors. JAMA. 1999. Feb 10;281(6):537–44.
  • 3
    Hahn S, Janssen OE, Tan S, Pleger K, Mann K, Schedlowski M et al. Clinical and psychological correlates of quality of life in polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2005 Dec;153(6):853–60.
  • 4
    Elsenbruch S. Hahn S, Kowalsky D, Offner AH, Schedlowski M, Mann K et al. Quality of life, psychosocial well-being, and sexual satisfaction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):5801–7.
  • 5
    Drosdzol A, Skrzypulec V, Mazur B, Pawlińska-Chmara R et al. Quality of life and marital sexual satisfaction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Folia Histochem Cytobiol. 2007;45 Suppl 1:S93–7.
  • 6
    Hahn S, Benson S, Elsenbruch S, Pleger K, Tan S, Mann K et al. Metformin treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome improves health-related quality-of-life, emotional distress and sexuality. Hum Reprod. 2006 Jul; 21(7):1925–34.
  • 7
    Davison S, Bell RJ2, LaChina M2, Holden SL3, Davis SR2. Sexual function in well women: stratification by sexual satisfaction, hormone use and menopause status. J Sex Med. 2008 May;5(5):1214–22.
Last updated: 09 June 2020 | Last reviewed: 01 September 2019

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