Lifestyle modifications alone or combined with hormonal contraceptives improve sexual dysfunction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

Female sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent among patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Intensive lifestyle modification alone or in combination with hormonal contraceptive pills has the potential to improve sexual function.

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VOLUME 115, ISSUE 2, P474-482


Marissa Steinberg Weiss, M.D., Andrea Hsu Roe, M.D., M.P.H., Kelly C. Allison, Ph.D., William C. Dodson, M.D., Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., Allen R. Kunselman, M.A., Christy M. Stetter, B.S., Nancy I. Williams, M.S., Sc.D., Carol L. Gnatuk, M.D., Stepanie J. Estes, M.D., David B. Sarwer, Ph.D., Christos Coutifaris, M.D., Ph.D., Richard S. Legro, M.D., Anuja Dokras, M.D., Ph.D.



To describe the prevalence of female sexual dysfunction in a well-defined polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) population, and to assess the impact of common PCOS treatments on sexual function.


Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial, oral contraceptive pills and weight loss in PCOS.


Two academic medical centers.


Women with PCOS (N = 114) defined by the Rotterdam criteria.


Continuous oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or intensive lifestyle modification (Lifestyle) or the combination (Combined) for 16 weeks.

Main Outcome Measures

Change in Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and Female Sexual Distress Scale−Revised (FSDS-R) scores after 16 weeks.


There was no change in total FSFI or FSDS-R score in any treatment group; however, an increase in the FSFI desire domain subscore was observed in the Lifestyle and Combined treatments, indicating improved sexual desire over the 16-week period. Overall, 33 participants (28.9%) met criteria for sexual dysfunction by FSFI criteria (baseline score ≤26.55). Among this group, FSFI score improved after 16 weeks of Lifestyle and Combined treatments. There was no change in prevalence of sexual dysfunction in treatment groups at 16 weeks. Use of OCPs did not alter FSFI scores.


Female sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent among women with PCOS. Our findings suggest that common treatments for PCOS, including intensive lifestyle modification and the combination of intensive lifestyle modification and OCPs, have the potential to improve sexual function in these women; the mechanism for these improvements is likely multifactorial.

Clinical Trial Registration Number


Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.