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Disclosure, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Social support


K. Soucie


J. Kichler



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, with prevalence rates up to 21%. Symptoms include ovarian cysts, menstrual irregularities, and possible infertility, as well as hirsutism, alopecia, and weight gain/obesity. These symptoms are distressing for many, and lead to psychological distress, poor body image, and reduced quality of life. They also may also cause feelings of social rejection, shame/embarrassment, and stigma which can complicate avenues for disclosure and social support, which are crucial in mitigating distress. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore women’s experiences disclosing their PCOS diagnosis to others, and to understand how disclosure experiences impact avenues of social support. Twenty-eight PCOS-diagnosed participants (age range, 19-43; M=28.17, SD=6.03) were interviewed about their experiences disclosing PCOS to others. A reflexive thematic analysis of interview transcripts was conducted. Four themes were constructed that represented how disclosure and social support intersect and unfold over time, and across contexts: broaching PCOS with others, the building blocks of support, maintaining meaningful conversations, and dead ends. Findings of this study highlight the complexity of PCOS disclosures and social support experiences, while also providing tangible avenues of supports to improve quality of life. This study has direct implications for future research within the field of disclosure and chronic illnesses and has the potential to inform the development of services aimed at supporting women with PCOS.