Do Birth Control Pills Get Rid of Polycystic Ovaries?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome commonly includes chronic absence of ovulation, hyperandrogenism (excessively high levels of male hormones), and polycystic ovaries. Birth control pills are the first thing that doctors typically turn to in an attempt to treat this difficult disorder. Are birth control pills a cure for PCOS? The answer is "no", although contraceptives relieve some of its signs and symptoms.

A recent study from the Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands compared PCOS women who took oral contraceptives to those who did not. The women taking contraceptives had a drop in their male hormones.

However, contraceptives did not alter polycystic ovaries or the size of the ovaries. The rate of polycystic ovaries was the same whether or not women took contraceptives.

Despite taking contraceptives, women still fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Birth control pills do help to relieve symptoms in many women. However, it's clear that they are not "the answer" to polycystic ovary syndrome.

You will need to do much more than just take birth control pills if you want to permanently gain the upper hand over PCOS. Your best approach is to vastly improve the quality of your diet, get a lot more exercise, and take steps to reduce chronic stress in your life.

Source: Mulders, AG et al, Influence of oral contraceptive pills on phenotype expression in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, Reprod Biomed Online, 2005 Dec;11(6):690-6.

Long-Term Pill Users Are Just as Fertile as Others

The aim of a recent medical study was to investigate the association of total duration of oral contraceptive usage with time to conception. This was a prospective study of 8,497 planned pregnancies drawn from a population expecting a baby in a 21 month period.

Of the participants, 74% conceived in </=6 months, 14% in 6-12 months and 12% after 1 year. Previous prolonged oral contraceptive usage was statistically significantly associated with a decreased risk of delayed conception. Prolonged use of oral contraception was also associated with improved fecundity independent of other factors.

The article concluded that women who have prolonged use of oral contraceptives might be reassured that they will not be disadvantaged in terms of time taken to achieve conception.

Women who take birth control pills for at least 5 years are able to conceive just as easily as non-users when trying to get pregnant.

The study also suggested that long-term users were likely to get pregnant sooner than non-users. The reason isn't known, but the study authors speculated that long-term use of the pill increases iron stores in the body, which may account for the increased ability to get pregnant.

This study contradicts some earlier studies in which women took birth control pills for shorter periods of time. However, this new research should reassure women who wonder if taking birth control pills might actually make them less fertile.

However, there is a suspected connection between oral contraceptives and worsening glucose metabolism. Oral contraceptives are not a solution to PCOS. In spite of this favorable study, oral contraceptives are not 100% beneficial for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Source:Farrow, A et al, Prolonged use of oral contraception before a planned pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of delayed conception, Hum Reprod, 2002, (10):2754-2761

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