Two other types of medications, anti-androgens and metformin, are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as specific treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome. However, they are frequently prescribed off-label by doctors to help PCOS symptoms, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
Anti-androgen medicines block the effect of “male hormones” and can help reduce acne as well as the excess growth of facial and body hair growth. However, these drugs can cause problems in pregnancy so should not be used if you plan on having a baby.
Metformin is a prescription drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, and it has been found to not only improve insulin's ability to lower blood sugar and but also decrease androgen levels. Researchers have found metformin may lower your BMI and improve cholesterol levels, too. Although it has little impact on polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms like acne and excess hair, metformin may restart ovulation a few months after you start taking the drug.
Self-help for polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms
In addition to medical care, there are things you can do to improve symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Lose weight. According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, it takes only a 10-percent loss in body weight (for example, a 150-pound woman losing 15 pounds) to help menstrual cycles become more regular and to improve the chance of pregnancy for many women with polycystic ovary syndrome who struggle with infertility.
- Remove excess hair. There are more ways than ever to safely remove excessive hair growth — from hair removal creams at home to professional waxing. Laser hair removal and electrolysis provided by medical professionals can offer a permanent solution to excess hair, too.
- Use a cream to slow excess hair growth. Talk to your doctor to see if a prescription skin treatment (eflornithine HCl cream), which slows hair growth in unwanted places, is right for you. Follow directions and use the cream regularly.
Infertility treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome
If you are having difficulty becoming pregnant, and your doctor has determined polycystic ovary syndrome is the reason, you may be prescribed medications, such as clomiphene (Clomid), which can help you ovulate. Gonadotropins, hormones given as shots, can also trigger ovulation but carry a higher risk of multiple pregnancies than clomiphene.
If these options don’t work, ovarian drilling can be tried. This surgical procedure uses a fine needle heated with electricity to open the outer shell of ovaries, which are typically thickened in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The surgery usually restores ovulation, but only for up to eight months.
You may also be a candidate for in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves removing an egg from an ovary and fertilizing it with your partner's sperm in a laboratory. Then the fertilized egg is placed in your uterus so it can implant and develop.
February 27, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA