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How is irregular menstruation due to PCOS treated?

If irregular and/or infrequent menstruation from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a problem, birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin can generally regulate cycles. Restoring regular periods is essential since it ensures that the lining of the uterus is shed, protecting against uterine cancer. Birth control pills also reduce the production of androgens by the ovaries.

Rare side effects of birth control pills include migraines, nausea and headaches, and, more rarely, blood clots (especially among smokers and women with persistent high blood pressure), gallbladder disease and high blood pressure.

If women don't want to take a daily medication, they can talk to their healthcare provider about a course of progestogen (progesterone-like drugs) several times a year to start periods. It is important to have at least six to eight periods a year to promote shedding of the endometrial lining; buildup can lead to cancer. However, periodic progesterone alone does not help reduce unwanted hair growth as birth control pills do.

Another drug that helps regulate periods in some women with PCOS, although less effectively than birth control pills, is the insulin-sensitizing drug metformin (Glucophage). Metformin regulates blood glucose (sugar) levels by reducing the amount of glucose the liver produces, reducing the amount of glucose absorbed from food and reducing the levels of insulin in the blood by helping the insulin that the body produces work better to reduce the amount of glucose already in the blood.

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.