Barriers and facilitators to weight management in overweight and obese women living in Australia with PCOS: a qualitative study

Siew Lim, Caroline A. Smith, Michael F. Costello, Freya MacMillan, Lisa Moran, Carolyn Ee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Lifestyle modification targeting weight management is the first-line treatment for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) regardless of presenting symptoms. Women with PCOS are more likely to gain more weight compared with women without PCOS, which may be related to barriers in engaging in lifestyle modification. The aim of this study is to explore the experience of women with PCOS in weight management and to determine the facilitators and barriers to lifestyle modifications in women with PCOS. METHODS: Ten women with PCOS participated in focus groups and semi-structured telephone interviews on lifestyle and weight management in PCOS. Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis of the transcripts was conducted. Thematic analysis of the transcripts were conducted using the method of constant comparison. RESULTS: Women in the current study attempted a wide range of weight loss interventions, but had difficulties losing weight and preventing weight regain. Women felt that having PCOS affected their ability to lose weight and to keep it off. Facilitators to lifestyle modification for weight management were reported as structured approaches such as having balanced meals and support by health professionals, peers, friends or family. Barriers to lifestyle changes in women with PCOS included logistical barriers such as time and cost, motivational barriers including tiredness or feeling unrewarded, environmental barriers such as not having access to safe places to exercise, emotional barriers such as having depressive and defeating thoughts, and relational barriers such as having unsupportive partner or prioritising children's meal preferences. CONCLUSIONS: Women with PCOS face a number of personal, environmental and social facilitators and barriers to lifestyle modification for weight loss. While many of these are also experienced by women without PCOS, women with PCOS face additional barriers in having low sense of self-confidence and high prevalence of negative thoughts which may impair their ability to maintain efforts in lifestyle modification over the long term. Future research should further explore the impact of the emotional and mental burden of PCOS on the management of weight and other aspects of PCOS. Future lifestyle intervention should also address the psychosocial aspect of PCOS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Endocrine Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2019


  • Barriers
  • Lifestyle
  • PCOS
  • Qualitative
  • Weight management

Cite this