Symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) such as weight gain, excess hair, hair loss, acne and problems with fertility can impact on your relationships with others and your sex life.
Helpful questions are included to assess whether PCOS has affected your sex life.
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, and the most commonly reported problem is a lowering of sexual desire (libido).
Women with PCOS have been found to report an increase in problems with sexual function. This may be because women may be overweight, they have 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. The concern about lowered fertility in some women with PCOS may also impact sexual function in women who are trying to conceive.
A number of research studies have found that women with PCOS are less satisfied when it comes to their sex lives, and hirsutism and being overweight in particular, cause women to feel less sexual[2-3]. Other researchers suggest this also has an impact on relationships.
It can be helpful to think about how PCOS has affected your sex life by asking yourself the following questions:
If you answered 'Yes' to any of the above questions and feel your PCOS is impacting on your sex life, knowing you are not alone is helpful, but more importantly it can be beneficial to discuss this with your doctor and/or a psychologist.
Not many studies have examined the effects of PCOS treatments on sexual function, however one study reported an improvement in sexual function in women with PCOS who were treated with metformin. Sexual function has been found to be generally lower in women who take the oral contraceptive pill, which is commonly used to control acne and excess hair growth in women with PCOS, although this research was not carried out in women with PCOS.
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long (between 21-35 days is considered normal). Due to high levels of androgens (male hormones) and insulin in women with PCOS menstruation is often disrupted and periods may be irregular or stop altogether. Some women with PCOS may also experience heavier or lighter bleeding.
Regular periods help to prevent excess thickening of the lining of the uterus (womb). Long gaps between periods can lead to abnormal cells building up inside the womb. It is recommended that at least four cycles per year are necessary to avoid this.
Medications such as a low-dose contraceptive pill, progesterone and metformin can be prescribed to help menstrual bleeding occur regularly. 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.
If you think your relationship and sex life have been affected by PCOS, seek help from your doctor, psychologist, or accredited health professional. Quality of life can be improved by:
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 April 2017.