If you’re new to dating, the whole thing can be kind of strange and terrifying. If you’ve been at it a while, you may be feeling less optimistic, a little jaded, or even have experienced some deep hurt in the process. One of the most daunting things facing women with PCOS is how to handle PCOS-related topics while dating. Here are some tips on how to bring up the subject.

Early Dating: Surface Exploration
If you’re serious about finding a relationship partner, the purpose of a first date is merely to determine if you’re interested enough to have a second date. Because PCOS is an unknown for most people, and it’s a “disease,” treat it the way you would handle any other bad news. You don’t want to talk about your crazy ex, the abortion you had in high school, your mother’s alcoholism, or anything else that might scare someone off. Same with PCOS.

This is not about lying; it’s about becoming more intimate in a gradual and meaningful way that strengthens a growing relationship, while protecting you from injury by someone who isn’t attached enough to be decent and thoughtful, and may just bail out on you.

Next Stage Dating: Getting Intimate
This means getting more intimate emotionally as well as physically. As a health psychologist, I’m all about protecting and promoting your health, so of course I’ve got to throw in a reminder about having a talk about pregnancy and STDs. And what a great opportunity to start opening the lines of conversation around PCOS! You might say something like “I have something called PCOS, which means that getting pregnant is much less likely for me, and…condoms are still a priority for me (or, “I’m on birth control because of my PCOS, but we still need to use condoms to protect both of us.”).

If your partner is female or trans, it’s still good to have the STD conversation, because no one’s exempt. It just changes the conversation a bit. You might say, “Before we go any further, I need to let you know something about my health. I have PCOS.” If it’s your style to be funny or dramatic, feel free to use a dramatic pause so that they’re freaking out thinking you might have a STD; that way PCOS sounds like nothing! If you’re afraid that PCOS will scare someone off, yes, it could. But it’s not likely – and wouldn’t you rather know now than when you’re two years down the line and planning a wedding?

More Mature Relationship: Grooming, Mood Swings, and More
I have a friend who thinks couples should know/do/see everything about the other person. Her husband says: “Mystery! Please, maintain a little mystery!” The more time you spend together, the more likely your partner is to notice any discomfort you have with your body. You can hide your early morning shave for a long time, but eventually a pesky random hair is going to protrude and get noticed. Acne and hair loss are visible no matter what. Most people won’t ask. But if you would feel more comfortable bringing attention to it, do so with kindness to yourself, and like it’s not a big deal, and you’ve got it covered. Something like “You might have noticed that my hair is thinning a little. I’m kind of embarrassed, but I’m seeing a good dermatologist, so don’t worry that I’m going to end up looking like The Rock.” (As you can see, I really like to insert a little humor into painful and uncomfortable situations.)

Deeper subjects, like infertility or PCOS-related depression/anxiety/mood swings, can be approached when you have built trust in your partner. Appropriate timing, respecting your own needs for privacy as well as for self-disclosure, and a little humor will go a long way in easing your new beloved into the subject of PCOS.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D., “The PCOS Psychologist,” is a health psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. She a Certified PCOS Educator, and the founder of PCOSwellness.com. You can contact Dr. Kubacky at AskDrGretchen@gmail.com.