Uncertainty, Anxiety and Isolation: Experiencing the COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown as a Woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Lou Atkinson, Chris Kite, Gordon McGregor, Tamsin James, Cain C. T. Clark, Harpal S. Randeva, Ioannis Kyrou

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    Abstract

    Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdown measures presented a significant risk to physical and mental wellbeing in affected populations. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are predisposed to several cardio-metabolic risk factors which increase the susceptibility to severe COVID-19 and also exhibit increased likelihood of impaired mental health wellbeing. Therefore, these women who usually receive care from multiple primary and specialist healthcare services may be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic and the related restrictions. This study aimed to explore the lived experience of the first UK national lockdown as a woman with PCOS. Methods: As part of a larger cross-sectional study, 12 women with PCOS living in the UK during the first national COVID-19 lockdown were recruited to a qualitative study. Telephone interviews were conducted in June/July of 2020, and data collected were subjected to thematic analysis. Results: Five themes were identified. “My PCOS Journey” describes participants’ experiences of diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management of their PCOS. “Living Through Lockdown” describes the overall experience and impact of the lockdown on all aspects of participants’ lives. “Self-care and Managing Symptoms” describe multiple challenges to living well with PCOS during the lockdown, including lack of access to supplies and services, and disruption to weight management. “Healthcare on Hold” describes the uncertainty and anxiety associated with delays in accessing specialised healthcare for a range of PCOS aspects, including fertility treatment. “Exacerbating Existing Issues” captures the worsening of pre-existing mental health issues, and an increase in health anxiety and feelings of isolation. Conclusion: For the women with PCOS in this study, the COVID-19 pandemic and the first national lockdown was mostly experienced as adding to the pre-existing challenges of living with their condition. The mental health impact experienced by the study participants was increased due to lack of access to their normal support strategies, limitations on healthcare services and uncertainty about their risk of COVID-19.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number952
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
    Volume11
    Issue number10
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    Funder

    Funding Information: All authors acknowledge and thank all the participants of this study, Verity (the UK PCOS charity) and the PCOS support groups on Facebook for their valuable support to this study. I.K. and H.S.R. also acknowledge and thank the General Charities of the City of Coventry for their support.

    Keywords

    • COVID-19
    • Lived experience
    • Lockdown
    • Mental health
    • PCOS
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Qualitative study

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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