Birth Control and PCOS
The most common medical “treatment” for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is Birth Control Pills. The reason the word treatment is in quotations is because the use of Birth Control Pills for the successful treatment of PCOS is debatable. Doctors hand them out like candy the second they hear PCOS, in hopes of regulating a woman’scycle, and reducing ovarian cysts. The use of Birth Control Pills are also supposed to lower the overall testosterone production from the ovaries (which can reduce a lot of PCOS symptoms)
Regulation of your cycle:
Doctors claim BCP’s regulate your cycle. Some women have experienced a regulated cycle while on BCP’s, however the idea of putting synthetic hormones into a body that already has hormone irregularities is not a good idea. BCP’s have been proven to worsen PCOS.
Doctors recommend having at least 4 periods a year (a period every 3 months) to keep yourself healthy and to reduce your chance of endometrial cancer. However the longer you go without a period, the higher your risk for endometrial cancer. This is a huge concern for PCOS women because the lack of monthly/regular periods. Recent birth control pills stop you from having periods for 3 months or longer — this is NOT recommended.
Which is not usually a need/preference of PCOS women!
Decreased testosterone levels:
This has not really been proven, however doctors claim BCP’s decrease your testosterone levels (which are HIGH in women with PCOS). Decreasing your testosterone levels reduces facial hair, hair loss, acne/oily skin, and the other symptoms that come from increased testosterone levels.
Decrease of other reproductive conditions:
Ovarian and breast cancer, uterine fibroids, ectopic pregnancies, PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), excessive menstrual bleeding and PMS. The majority of these “benefits” remain unproven. Pregnancy and breastfeeding, however, have been proven to lower your risks of the above conditions.
Worsen PCOS symptoms:
There have been many recent studies suggesting that the use of Birth Control Pills in women with PCOS can actually worsen the condition by causing further hormone imbalance, increased insulin resistance (which leads to more weight gain).
Serious health risks:
The Birth Control Pills themselves come with health warnings and risks. These include: stroke, spotting, breast tenderness, high blood pressure, weight gain (worsening of IR), headaches, nausea and a number of hormonal side affects such as spotting, hot flashes, depression, etc. Since women with PCOS often have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks, taking BCP’s is not a good idea as it will only increase the stress on our cardiovascular system, whether you smoke or not.
Not all women can use Birth Control Pills:
Women with a history of blood clots, breast cancer, impaired liver function, coronary artery disease, unexplained vaginal bleeding, and those who smoke heavily should avoid Birth Control Pills at all costs.
So, what do you want your treatment to accomplish? Reduction in ovarian pain? Regulation of your cycles? Or are you trying to conceive a baby? Determining your needs/future plans will help you decide on treatment.
Please keep in mind that Birth Control Pills are often prescribed as the cure-all for PCOS. They are not. They are a band aid fix that covers up the underlying causes and symptoms of PCOS. Not only have they been proven to increase our health risks, but they have now been proven to worse PCOS and the symptoms that accompany it. AVOID BIRTH CONTROL PILLS AT ALL COSTS.