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What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Birth Control Pills
If you have PCOS and do not wish to become pregnant, long-term treatment with a birth control pill may be a good option for you. Birth control pills can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce androgen levels, helping to treat acne and unwanted hair growth. This treatment will also help to regulate the growth of the uterine lining, thus reducing the risk for endometrial cancer.
Diabetes Medications
In many cases, women with PCOS may be treated with insulin-sensitizing drugs, which are also used for diabetes treatment. These can also help decrease androgen levels and improve ovulation. 
Specifically, metformin (Glucophage®) -- a medicine that is used to treat type 2 diabetes -- has been found to help with PCOS symptoms. However, it's important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved this use of metformin. Metformin affects the way insulin controls blood sugar and helps to lower testosterone production. As a result, this drug can help slow down the growth of abnormal hair and may also help with ovulation. Other benefits of using it may include weight loss and improved cholesterol levels.
Fertility Medications
One of the main reasons women with PCOS have fertility problems is due to absent or infrequent ovulation. A number of medications can stimulate ovulation and help women with PCOS become pregnant. Some of these fertility medications include:
  • Clomiphene (Clomid®, Serophene®): This is usually the first choice of therapy to stimulate ovulation.
     
  • Metformin taken with clomiphene: This can be tried if clomiphene alone fails. This combination may help women with PCOS ovulate on lower doses of medication.
     
  • Gonadotropins: These are given as injections, but are more expensive and raise the risk of multiple births compared to clomiphene.
Some women with PCOS may also consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive a child when the fertility medications have failed. However, IVF may not be right for some women (see The Ins and Outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for more information about the pros and cons of this procedure).
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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