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Living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

By Dr Claire Giuliano

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders in women occurring in roughly 4-8% of the population. PCOS is also known to be associated with pelvic pain and can have debilitating symptom presentation in a quarter of those living with the disease. The cause of PCOS is thought to be increased androgen circulation or insulin in the body, but the exact cause is unknown. Irregular menstrual cycles and infertility are common symptoms of PCOS which make the disease emotionally exhausting for most when trying to conceive. Many women living with PCOS also experience embarrassing symptoms such as excessive hair growth, dark skin patches, and skin tags which can be a barrier to confidence with sexual intimacy.

All of the accompanying symptoms of PCOS can lead to low self-esteem. Finding confidence in the bedroom with your body may feel like a barrier, but there are many ways to overcome these symptoms. Taking care of your health outside of your sex life may seem unrelated at first glance to your libido, but elevating all areas of your life can help improve your sex life. 

Below are our tips for living with PCOS and elevating your life between the sheets and beyond. 

1. Find a specialist. 

This could be an OBGYN, endocrinologist, or fertility specialist. Having an expert on your team to navigate confusing or complex medical jargon can help you make clear and confident decisions about your health.

2. Educate yourself about the disease. 

If you are living with PCOS and are reading this article then you are already putting this step into action. Give yourself credit for that! Knowledge is empowering and can help you advocate for yourself when making a decision with your medical providers.

3. Rule out food sensitivities.

Underlying food sensitivities are a frequent cause of inflammation. If you reduce sources of inflammation in your body from every angle, then your body has a better chance of overcoming symptoms of PCOS.

4. Exercise regularly. 

There are myriad of benefits to regular exercise, and research shows that high-intensity strength training and cardiovascular exercise reduce PCOS symptoms. Find a workout buddy and splurge on a cute outfit to spark motivation in the gym.

5. Cosmetic symptoms can be treated. 

If you are experiencing unwanted skin tags, excessive hair growth on your face, or dark skin patches, don’t feel doomed that these things are permanent. Thankfully modern cosmetic technology can readily resolve these symptoms. Combating your symptoms with the other listed tips will also help some of these symptoms resolve for most individuals. A dermatologist or esthetician can be consulted to help you start this piece of the puzzle if you wish to remove cosmetic flaws.

6. For painful sex, consider extensive foreplay.

Options are truly infinite with foreplay and depend on what you and your partner seek in sexual intimacy. Make sure to communicate with your partner what feels best. You can start by stocking your bedside drawer with lubricant and massage oil to get things heated before penetration. Light candles to set the mood and read sex quotes to each other from The Little Book of Sex.

7. Get regular sleep. 

This is how the body heals and resets. Sleep reduction leads to increased cortisol which can create a pattern of chronic stress. This is a known byproduct of lack of sleep and can slow down metabolism and cause agitation – two things nobody wants to overcome in the bedroom! Set yourself up with success by prioritizing an early bedtime or sleeping in on the weekends.

8. Reduce stress. 

PCOS is a hormonal condition at the root, and stress can largely alter normal hormonal rhythms. As noted in the tip above, getting enough sleep is one component of stress reduction. Identify other stressors in your life and find actionable ways to reduce or remove them from your life.

9. Be aware of Diabetes. 

Women living with PCOS are at a much higher risk for Type II diabetes. You can reduce this risk by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. 

10. Maintain a healthy weight. 

This tip is related to the one above and can help lower your risk of diabetes. Keeping weight down can also help with confidence and mood regulation. If you are crunched for time, find a local healthy café or to-go options that work for you.

11. Stretch 

Just saying the word sounds nice, right? Another known way to reduce stress, you can calm your nervous system with just five minutes at the end of each day. Try this quick full body stretch video.  

12. Join a support group. 

Finding other women going through the same hardships can be comforting and help you feel hopeful. If you are feeling alone in your journey, this is a great way to know that is far from the truth as many women struggle through the journey of overcoming PCOS. Meeting other women may also offer new helpful tips, not on this list.

13. Use a heating pad. 

Find a weighted one for extra comfort and use this as a stress-relieving modality before bed or sex. Heat will help improve blood flow and calm muscle tension – something we all crave after a long day.

14. Meditate

You can do this in the comfort of your home with an app, such as InsightTimer or Calm app. Many yoga studios also offer meditation classes, which is another great way to receive group support. Practicing meditation daily can have a significant impact on your nervous system. Anyone can take five minutes for this a day.

15. Find a pelvic floor therapist.

This is related to every other bullet point above, as they can help you navigate through this whole process successfully. Manual techniques and exercise guidance are a core focus for most pelvic floor therapists who will create an individualized rehab plan for you.

While the diagnosis of PCOS may feel overwhelming without answers, remember that this common condition has solutions. Start with this comprehensive list from Pepper to take readily obtainable steps for your health. Focusing on one step at a time will keep things practical. Don’t be shy to lean on your healthcare team when you have questions. PCOS will feel upsetting at times, but there is hope for everyone no matter the extent of the diagnosis.

Claire is a pelvic floor therapist with a distinct specialty certification in pelvic rehabilitation (PRPC). She is the private clinic owner of Rooted Pelvic Health & Hand Therapy in Sun Valley, Idaho. She treats all gender diversities for pelvic floor related conditions including sexual dysfunction, gynecological cancer recovery, and chronic pelvic pain. Claire's mission is to improve overall function and quality of life with lasting results for her clients. As a contributing writer to Pepper Together, Claire seeks to provide education about a subject that deserves more attention. She hopes that by spreading the word about pelvic floor conditions she can break the stigma about conversations around sex, and provide simple solutions to improve sexual intimacy.

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