Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has been around for years, and recognized in medical books, but it was not remotely understood until the past couple of decades. In that time, great strides have been made to learn about and treat this endocrine disorder that affects roughly 10 percent of women — that’s more than any other endocrine disorder. And because Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can wreak havoc on so many aspects of womens’ health, a very important part of her female functionality is often overlooked: how it affects her sex life. Studies show that it certainly does, in a big way.
To understand PCOS, one must understand a little about insulin resistance and androgen (male hormone) production. When the body requires the pancreas to make more insulin in order to utilize blood sugar than it should have to, a condition known as insulin resistance, other byproducts of this endocrine phenomenon occur, and they aren’t pretty.
Women may start to exhibit signs and symptoms typical of male hormones — they may grow hair on their face, chin, neck, and chest. They may start to lose scalp hair, to the point where one can actually see scalp through their thinning hair. They may develop mild-to-severe acne as a result of the male hormones, and weight gain occurs in about 80 percent of those diagnosed with PCOS. Unfortunately, the more weight that is gained, the more insulin resistance increases, creating a vicious cycle. Those with PCOS find it very difficult to lose weight, even on low calorie diets. They are also more likely to become diabetic, be hypertensive, and have high cholesterol.
It’s not rocket science to figure out that this syndrome takes an incredible toll on womens’ bodies and minds. The issue that sends most women to the doctor looking for answers is the inability to get pregnant. In women under 35, a couple is generally not considered to need outside help with conception unless they have been trying for more than a year. But because PCOS and the androgen increase prevents ovulation, most women with PCOS will not get pregnant without medical treatment and pharmacological therapy. This also means that since they aren’t ovulating, they aren’t having a period, which makes it impossible to try to figure out when they may be fertile. Thus, many women try unsuccessfully for years to become pregnant, not knowing it is impossible because they are not ovulating.
While there are medications and other therapies, such as ovarian drilling, to stimulate ovulation and increase a woman’s odds of pregnancy, one very overlooked quality-of-life-indicator for the woman with PCOS is her sex life. She may be so focused on trying to get pregnant that she views sex as more of a timing issue than a moment of intimacy with her partner — a job instead of joy. That can take an incredible toll on the woman’s psyche.
Women with PCOS are more likely to be depressed and anxious, studies show, and that’s little surprise when you consider infertility combined with weight gain, hypertension, and the cosmetic aspects of PCOS — namely abnormal hair growth and loss of scalp hair — may leave the woman feeling anything but sexy, no matter how accepting her partner is. For this reason, women with PCOS have a statistically harder time having an orgasm, which may be partly due to hormonal factors and partly due to self esteem problems, according to Refinery 29.
Even now in the medical community, it remains a common trend that most women with PCOS are not treated unless they desire pregnancy. This is a problem because sexuality is a key part of happiness and well-being. Even if pregnancy is not desired, there is treatment available to help a woman feel sexy and more likely to achieve orgasm, and she is able to have a satisfying sex life, which in turn will lead to overall contentment and healthy self-esteem.
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