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This may have happened with you or other women you know. You find out you have PCOS, go to a doctor and the first words you hear them utter is – birth control pills. Why do they prescribe that and what is the effect of birth control pills for PCOS? Let’s find out.
What are Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills are hormonal pills prescribed to women for preventing pregnancy. There are multiple ways of avoiding pregnancy but birth control pills are one of the most commonly used and effective ways of birth control.
These pills work in three ways:
- By preventing ovulation from occurring.
- By thickening the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus.
- By thinning the uterus lining and reducing the chances of a fertilised egg from getting attached.
Birth control pills may be of two types:
- Combination pills of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) hormones
- Progestin-only pills (also called mini-pills)
Both types of pills may be used in the management of PCOS. So, wondering why birth control pills for PCOS? Let’s find out.
Birth Control Pills and PCOS
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce more than the normal amount of male hormones called androgens, which are usually produced in a lesser amount in females.
Birth control pills contain synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are produced naturally in the ovaries. Thus, they can help regulate the hormonal imbalance in PCOS.
Contraceptive pills for PCOS work by reducing the levels of androgens, regulating estrogen production and the menstrual cycle, and reducing the risk of PCOS complications such as endometrial cancer.
To know how birth control pills are beneficial for women with PCOS, stay hooked!
Benefits of Birth Control Pills for PCOS
For PCOS, doctors often prescribe birth control pills as a long-term treatment for women who do not wish to get pregnant in the near future. Birth control pills help manage PCOS in the following ways.
Reduce Androgen Levels
Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgen hormones, which play a major role in driving the symptoms of the condition. This can cause excess body and facial hair growth, acne, and pregnancy issues. Combination birth control pills can help reduce androgen levels in your body and reduce the severity of symptoms such as facial hair growth, acne, and hair loss.
Along with reducing androgen levels, birth control pills also regulate estrogen production in those with PCOS. Thus, women with PCOS are able to ovulate normally and undergo regular menstrual bleeding. This also keeps the uterus healthy and protects against uterine cancer.
Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy
Though women with PCOS may struggle with infertility, the unpredictable and difficult-to-track ovulation in PCOS may also increase the chances of unwanted pregnancy in those with PCOS. The birth control pill prevents such unwanted pregnancies.
Those using birth control pills for PCOS may also experience other positive effects on health, including:
- A lighter and more regular menstrual flow
- Reduced cramping and pain during periods
- Possible protection against pelvic inflammatory disease
- Reduction in menstrual migraines
- Reduced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
- A decreased risk of osteoporosis
- Reduced risk of certain types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer
Are There Any Side Effects of Birth Control Pills for PCOS?
Most side effects related to birth control pills are temporary and resolve on their own. The side effects also vary from person to person.
Some of the common side effects you may observe while taking birth control pills for PCOS include:
- Spotting between periods
- Missed periods
- Frequent headaches and migraine
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido or sex drive
- Mood changes
- Breast tenderness
- Increased blood pressure
How Long to Take Birth Control Pills for PCOS?
It is advisable to start taking birth control pills for PCOS only upon a doctor’s advice after consultation and diagnosis of your condition. Observe if your PCOS symptoms are stabilising and whether you feel any side effects after going on birth control pills for some time.
If the symptoms are under control and there are no side effects, you should be able to continue using the birth control pills for as long as your doctor advises.
Make sure you consult a doctor every few months so they can analyse your condition and advise about the continued use of birth control pills for PCOS.
Who Are Not Prescribed Birth Control Pills for PCOS?
Though considered safe for most women, not all women with PCOS are prescribed birth control pills to relieve symptoms.
It is important to consult your doctor before you begin to take birth control pills for PCOS. Your doctor may not prescribe birth control pills if you:
- Are above 35 and smoke
- Have an existing history of blood clots
- Are on some medication that can actively interact with the pills
- Have existing and uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Have existing heart disease
- Experience frequent migraine headaches with spots and flashing lights
- Have existing liver disease
- Have a history of breast or uterine cancer
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills are hormonal pills for women to prevent pregnancy. Two common types include combination pills (containing estrogen and progestin hormones) and progestin-only pills (called mini-pills).
- Birth control pills are also prescribed for regulating the hormonal imbalance in PCOS. The pills reduce androgen levels, regulate menstrual cycles, and prevent unplanned pregnancy in those with PCOS.
- These pills mostly have temporary side effects such as spotting between periods, missed periods, nausea, weight gain, frequent headaches, mood changes, and others.
- Do not take birth control pills for PCOS without a doctor’s advice. If your symptoms are being well managed without side effects, you may continue using the birth control pills for as long as your doctor advises.
- Though considered safe for most women, you may not be prescribed birth control pills if you are above 35 and smoke, have a history of breast cancer, existing uncontrolled high blood pressure and other conditions such as liver or heart disease.
- Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides 360º care.
Friendly Asked Questions
Yes, birth control pills are considered a safe and effective treatment for PCOS. However, it is still important to talk to your doctor about what works best for you before starting the treatment of PCOS with birth control pills.
Birth control pills help manage the symptoms of PCOS such as irregular periods and reduce other symptoms such as acne and excessive hair growth. Birth control pills for PCOS reduce the levels of androgens in your body, regulate the levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone, regularise your periods, and help prevent unwanted pregnancy.