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Sexuality is a fundamental aspect of our identity. It can bring immense pleasure as well as anxiety and discomfort. Female-identifying individuals suffering from Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition affecting the proper functioning of ovaries and other aspects of the body, may face additional obstacles and experience a range of sexual dysfunctions (FSD). These may include reduced sexual desire, difficulties with lubrication, and inability to orgasm. While experiencing these obstacles, PCOS patients also contend with other areas of sexual self-actualization and awakening.
One reason for the sexual issues with PCOS is the hormonal imbalances, including disrupted levels of estrogen and progesterone and higher levels of androgens. These can affect vaginal lubrication and arousal, damaging sexual function. Social media misinformation has also led to a plethora of myths and pseudoscience around PCOS, making it difficult to get reliable information about the syndrome.
Sexologists and PCOS experts, however, have put forth some solutions that patients can try to improve their sex lives. Some of these solutions include:
Addressing Lubrication Issues
A lack of lubrication can cause discomfort and pain during sex. Sexologist Rhiannon John recommends following three steps for dealing with this symptom. First, patients should prioritize masturbation to learn more about themselves and understand what turns them on. Second, buying a good quality lubricant will assist in maintaining lubrication during sexual activity. Lastly, John suggests consulting a physiotherapist for pelvic floor therapy who can work on treating painful sex, abdominal pain, and other debilitating symptoms. Certain sexual positions can also help with lubrication issues, like the spooning position and scissoring, which involves rubbing the vulva against thighs or other body parts.
Overcoming Difficulty in Orgasm
A lack of lubrication can lead to difficulties in experiencing pleasure and orgasms. Relationship and psychosexual therapist Jodie Slee recommends dedicating more time to genital stimulation and trying an orgasm control technique called edging, which requires getting right up to the point of orgasm and stopping stimulation before starting again. They suggest seeking help from a psychosexual therapist to identify the accelerators (factors that increase sexual interest) and brakes (factors that decrease sexual interest) and work through them to better understand sexual desire.
Boosting Sexual Desire and Arousal
PCOS patients may struggle to cultivate sexual desire due to invasive thoughts related to body image, self-blame, and spectatoring. Dr. Jolene Brighten, an endocrinologist and author of Beyond the Pill, recommends mindfulness-based practices and sexual meditation to increase sexual satisfaction, arousal, and desire. These techniques demand complete focus on the body’s sensations before and during sex.
Normalizing Period Sex
Many PCOS patients have irregular periods, leading to anxiety around sexual activity. However, normalizing period sex could prove highly beneficial to boost sexual life. Sexologist John recommends trying period sex in the shower or purchasing a sex blanket that absorbs blood and other fluids. Moreover, heightened sensitivity during menstruation can lead to comfortable and enjoyable penetration.
Lack of knowledge surrounding PCOS prevents us from understanding the ways it affects our bodies and sex lives. Educating ourselves about the condition and its impacts can lead to more openness, less shame, and better advocacy around the condition.