Does Birth Control Help With PCOS?

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, can be a painful condition to try to manage, and it affects roughly 10% of women of childbearing age. Common side effects include infertility, pain, acne, and mood changes, according to Medical News Today. While PCOS can't be cured, certain kinds of birth control can help treat and manage symptoms, leading to a greater quality of life. Some treatment protocols can even eliminate symptoms completely. Because PCOS occurs as a result of a hormonal imbalance, birth control works by helping to correct the imbalance; as hormones become more balanced, symptoms tend to improve (via Westmed Family Healthcare).

More specifically, birth control pills prevent ovulation and the release of an egg every month. The hormones that are responsible for preventing ovulation also lower male-hormone levels and increase female-hormone levels. But with so many birth control options on the market, how do you know which is best? Your doctor can help determine the best option for your needs, given your overall health status, but there are a few things to know.

Common types of birth control for PCOS

One of the most effective birth controls for treating PCOS are combination hormonal birth control pills, which contain both estrogen and progestin (via American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). Because combination pills increase estrogen and reduce testosterone and androgens, many see a reduction in testosterone-driven PCOS side effects such as facial hair. Reducing testosterone is critical to improving PCOS, per Westmed Family Healthcare.

While combination pills are a great option for some women, they may not work for others; women with certain health conditions or risks, such as a high risk of diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or those who are overweight, may experience a worsening of those conditions by taking the combination pill (per Medical News Today). In those instances, you and your doctor may discuss single hormone birth control as an alternative. Single hormone birth control pills can reduce PCOS symptoms and may have less severe medication side effects.