The Pill And PCOS
If you've received a diagnosis of PCOS, you're probably a bit concerned about the potential impact of the condition on your fertility. However, unless you're currently trying to get pregnant, this may not be an immediate problem - you might be a lot more interested in relieving the symptoms of your PCOS in the short to medium term. This is where the contraceptive pill (otherwise known as the birth control pill) can come in very useful indeed.
What Will The Pill Do For You?
You should talk to your doctor about ways to lessen and manage the effects of your PCOS on your daily life. Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend birth control medication. This treatment is particularly effective for:
(1) Regulating your periods. After a few months of taking the pill, your reproductive system should settle into a regular routine and you'll know exactly when you are going to have your period. Bear in mind that this is not a real period - you are not fertile while you are taking the pill. However, the contraceptive pill will stop your period from coming once, then taking three months off, and turning up again unexpectedly (this often happens to women with PCOS) in the middle of your holidays, or during exams, or at some other inconvenient time.
A low dose synthetic pill combining the hormones estrogen and progesterone should achieve this result. Similarly, taking the progesterone hormone for 10 to 14 days a month should also regulate your periods, but won't provide you with full contraceptive cover (talk to your doctor about this).
(2) Reducing unwanted hair growth. Unfortunately, and to the great distress of many PCOS sufferers, male-pattern hair growth is a symptom of PCOS. This is because the ovaries of PCOS patients produce too many male hormones (called androgens) like testosterone. This can cause hair to grow on the face, back, stomach, etc. - i.e. in places where ladies shouldn't have hair.
The birth control pill reduces the amount of testosterone produced by your ovaries, and after about 6 months of taking it, you should see a marked improvement in terms of how much unwanted hair you have. Be aware that the progesterone-only treatment described above (for 10 to 14 days a month) will not reduce the androgen levels in your body - it will only make your periods more predictable.
(3) Improving your skin. PCOS sufferers sometimes find that they have acne. In many cases, this can be alleviated by taking the contraceptive pill to achieve the desired hormonal balance.
The contraceptive pill has a few potential side effects such as weight gain (not a good thing if you already have PCOS), breast soreness and mood swings. Usually these can be alleviated by changing to a different brand of pill. There are more serious side effects, however, often in women who have pre-existing conditions or a medical history that make the contraceptive pill an unsuitable form of PCOS treatment. That's why you must be totally honest and thorough when discussing your past health with the doctor treating you for PCOS.
You should know that when you get to the stage at which you want to start a family, there are treatments available that will hopefully help you to conceive, if it should prove difficult for you to do it naturally. In the meantime, exercising regularly and eating well is a significant step in the right direction.