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Can polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, if a woman has PCOS there is a high likelihood that her daughter or sister will have the disorder. There are steps they can take to prevent some of the worst consequences of the disorder—diabetes, uterine cancer, high blood pressure and high levels of blood lipids (a risk factor for heart disease).

If women with PCOS do not menstruate, inducing menstruation with a progesterone-like agent should be a top priority. During menstruation, the endometrial lining is shed in response to withdrawal of the progesterone hormone. Without this shedding, the risk of uterine cancer rises significantly. Birth control pills, which combine estrogen and progestin, can restore regular periods. If women don't want to take a daily medication, a course of progesterone, such as medroxyprogesterone acetate, micronized progesterone or norethindrone acetate, taken for 10 to 14 days every one to three months, may help.

If women are overweight, losing weight is a big step toward lowering the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Losing weight can help restore regular periods and improve other hormonal imbalances, but weight loss is often an incomplete solution to PCOS.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.