Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormone disorder that affects the ovaries. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is the most common hormonal disorder for women of the reproductive age. With PCOS, the ovaries are typically enlarged and contain numerous cysts along the outer edge of each ovary. The cause of PCOS is unknown but early diagnosis and treatment has shown to reduce the risk of long-term complications such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
According to doctors, one of the best ways to treat PCOS in women who are not trying to conceive is through birth control pills. This is because women with PCOS typically have irregular hormonal levels such as increased testosterone levels. By prescribing birth control pills, doctors are able to better control these hormonal imbalances.
Contraceptive Option #1: Low-Dose Pills
Your doctor may prescribe you low-dose birth control pills to help regulate your menstrual cycle. These typically include a combination of progesterone and synthetic estrogen. By decreasing androgen production, your body no longer has to deal with continuous estrogen production. These pills have shown to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer and abnormal bleeding. Typically these pills have 20 mcg of estrogen plus progesterone. Common forms of low-dose pills include desogestrel, levonorgestrel and drospirenone.
Contraceptive Option #2: Progesterone Pills
Another contraceptive option for women with PCOS is progesterone pills. Your doctor may prescribe these for 10 to 14 days each month. This form of contraception causes the endometrium or lining of the womb to shed. These pills regulate your period and protect you against endometrial cancer. The names of common progesterone only pills include norgestrel and norethindrone.
Contraceptive Option #3: Combination Pills
Excessive hair growth is often a side effect of PCOS due to the excessive production of androgens or male hormones by the ovaries. Doctors typically treat this side effect of PCOS through a low-dose contraceptive pill with estrogen and progesterone in combination with an anti-androgen. Common types of these birth control pills that include this combination are Diane, Estelle, Yasmin or Valette. Other options for woman with excessive hair growth and PCOS is a combination of low-dose birth control pills with a medication called spironolactone, which is a separate pill that also works to lower androgen levels.
Birth control pills tend to be the most common form of contraception prescribed by doctors because they help both with preventing pregnancy and with treating PCOS symptoms. These pills counteract the effects of elevated testosterone levels and effectively create artificial menstrual cycles that prevent irregular bleeding. For women who suffer from insulin-resistant PCOS, a doctor may also prescribe you Metformin or another drug to help regulate blood sugar. Many doctors refuse to use an IUD as a form of contraception in women with irregular menses and PCOS because it may exacerbate PCOS symptoms.