Which Birth Control Can Help Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Sexual Health

Which Birth Control Can Help Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Editorial Team
2021
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11
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In this article, we'll be explaining what is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and its symptoms, how birth control works to help manage PCOS and which birth control method is best for women with PCOS.


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What Is PCOS, Its Symptoms And Causes 


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. The endocrine system consists of glands that secrete and regulate hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen.


Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that causes unusually high levels of male sex hormones. This imbalance changes the way the ovaries function and can cause them to develop many small cysts.


Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and making eggs normally.


Genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.


Women with PCOS may also not ovulate or do so infrequently. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility.


Some of the symptoms of PCOS include:


- weight gain and obesity

- insulin resistance causing diabetes symptoms

- mood changes, problems concentrating, and fatigue

- acne on the skin

- excess body hair, notably on the face

- thinning hair

- headaches

- difficulty sleeping

- irregular periods due to delayed or no ovulation

- heavy or painful periods

- Symptoms vary and may be mild or so severe that they disrupt a woman’s life.


How PCOS affects your body


Having higher-than-normal androgen levels can affect your fertility and other aspects of your health.


Here are some of the ways PCOS can affect your body:

 

Infertility


PCOS is one the most common causes for infertility in women. Women who experience irregular ovulation aren't able to release eggs to be fertilized and therefore makes it difficult for them to conceive. 


Depression 


Both hormonal changes and symptoms like unwanted hair growth can negatively affect your emotions. Many with PCOS eventually experience depression and anxiety.


Endometrial Cancer


During ovulation, the uterine lining sheds. If you don’t ovulate every month, the lining can build up.


A thickened uterine lining can increase your risk for endometrial cancer.


What Is Birth Control


Also known as contraception, birth control refers to any method that can be used to prevent unwanted pregnancies from happening. Birth control methods can include condoms, birth control pills, practicing the rhythm method, IUDs and tubal ligation. 


It is important you use birth control if you are sexually active with your partner. In a study done by the National University Hospital (NUH) in Singapore, researchers found that 84% of couples who did not use any birth control methods got pregnant within a year and 92% of those same couples got pregnant within 2 years. 


Besides pregnancy prevention, women can also use birth control for other purposes. Hormonal birth control can be taken to manage period cramps and symptoms of PMS, regulate periods and keep hormonal acne breakout under control. Hormonal birth control can also help reduce the risk of developing ovarian and uterine cancer.  


How Birth Control Can Help Manage PCOS 


While it is not meant to be a cure, hormonal birth control has the ability to help treat and manage the symptoms of PCOS. Here are the 3 ways hormonal birth control is able to treat PCOS symptoms: 


1. Hormonal birth control is able to ensure regular ovulation which decreases the risk of the user developing endometrial hyperplasia, or the buildup of uterine tissue. This in turn also helps reduce the risk of developing uterine cancer. 


2. Hormonal birth control is able to reduce excessive levels of androgen (specifically testosterone). By limiting the amount of testosterone present in the blood, hormonal birth control can significantly reduce acne breakouts, androgenic alopecia and hirsutism (excessive growth of body and facial hair). 


3. As a form of birth control, it will help to prevent unwanted pregnancies especially for users with irregular ovulation cycles. 


Which Form Of Birth Control Is Best For PCOS? 


Hormonal Birth Control 


Combined hormonal contraceptives contain both estrogen and progestin, and are considered the first-line treatment for people suffering irregular periods and androgens as a result of PCOS. There are several options to choose from, including oral contraceptives ("the pill"), a transdermal patch, and an intravaginal ring.


Combination Birth Control Pills


Combination birth control pills like Yasmin and Yaz prevent pregnancies by using a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones to stop ovulation. Combination birth control pills also thicken the mucus in the cervix, making it difficult for the sperm to fertilize the egg. 


Beside stopping ovulation from occurring, both estrogen and progestin present in these pills can help decrease the levels of androgen brought on by PCOS. Combination birth control pills also help to regulate periods, reduce excessive hair growth and acne breakouts, as well as lower your risk of developing endometrial cancer. 


Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills 


As you might expect, progestin-only birth control pills contain only the hormone progestin. Similar to how combination birth control pills work, progestin-only pills prevent pregnancies by stopping ovulation, thickening the mucus in the cervix to prevent fertilization and thinning the uterine lining to make it difficult for the implantation of a fertilized egg. 


For women who are unable to take combination birth control pills, progestin-only pills are an effective alternative to managing PCOS symptoms. As progestin-only birth control pills increase your progesterone levels, they can help regulate your periods and ovulation as well as reducing your risk of developing endometrial cancer. 




Birth Control Patch 


Besides regulating your ovulation and periods, birth control patches can also help to reduce acne, bloating, period cramps, excessive body hair and help reduce your risk of developing endometrial cancer. 


Birth Control Ring


Birth control rings, also most commonly known by the brand name NuvaRing, work by continuously releasing both progestin and estrogen hormones in your vagina. These hormones prevent you from ovulating and thickens the mucus found in your cervix, which makes it more difficult for the sperm to reach and come into contact with the egg. 


Besides regulating your ovulation and periods, birth control rings can also help to reduce acne, bloating, period cramps, excessive body hair and help reduce your risk of developing endometrial cancer.