Reproductive Health

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Birth Control

2 min read

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where someone experiences dysfunction in ovulation (the ovary's ability to produce an egg) and there are higher levels of androgens (male sex hormones) in the body. Most individuals with PCOS develop the first signs of this syndrome when they enter adolescence. Ovulation is necessary to regulate menstruation, so irregular ovulation causes long intervals between periods and is usually followed by a heavy period.

The increased production of androgens results in hair growth on the body (upper lip, chin, sides of face, chest, abdomen, etc). Individuals with PCOS also experience increased weight and resistance to insulin, causing blood glucose levels to be high.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

  • Irregular periods (not having a period, multiple skipped periods, heavy bleeding)
  • Skin tags (small growths on your skin that don’t typically require treatment)
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Excess body hair
  • Thinning hair on the head
  • Darkening of the skin in areas where the skin folds
  • Infertility

Who can get PCOS?

The cause of PCOS is unclear, but it can run in your family and impacts 5%-10% of people with uteruses between 12 and 44 years olds.

PCOS tends to be under-diagnosed because the symptoms can often be explained by other factors and the presentation of this condition can be very variable. For example, acne and weight gain can change due to stress or age. Symptoms can also be mild and may not cause any concern for those who experience them. As a result of being under-diagnosed, PCOS is often under-treated as well.

How do I know if I have PCOS?

Because PCOS can be tricky to diagnose, it’s best to contact your doctor to set up an appointment and talk through your symptoms. The doctor will ask you about your period, any symptoms you are having, and your family history. After performing a physical exam, the doctor may recommend getting an ultrasound to check for ovarian cysts (abnormal growths) and/or lab tests to measure your hormone levels.

How do you treat PCOS?

There is no cure for PCOS, so the PCOS community focuses on managing concerns and symptoms. There are many effective treatment plans depending on which symptoms are causing the most concern. Examples include: a change in diet and exercise, medication to help you ovulate, prevent hair growth, improve your blood glucose levels, regulate your cycles and improve other symptoms.

Can birth control be used to treat PCOS?

Doctors may prescribe birth control to help treat PCOS. Hormonal birth control helps to regulate your period, lower androgen levels, and reduce acne. The pill, patch and ring work by preventing ovulation, which reduces further cyst formation on your ovary. If your doctor says that you can’t take estrogen based on your medical history, progestin-only methods can also improve symptoms of PCOS.

How does PCOS affect pregnancy?

Because people with PCOS struggle to ovulate (release eggs) each month, becoming pregnant may be difficult. PCOS causes irregular ovulation, irregular periods, and increased levels of androgens. These factors can affect egg quality and prevent ovulation making achieving a pregnancy very difficult.

It’s still possible to become pregnant with PCOS, but many people seek out help from a fertility specialist. In vitro fertilization (IVF) or medications like Letrozole (helps with ovulation) may be offered to people trying to have a baby with PCOS. IVF is a complex series of procedures used to help with fertility.

What are the long-term effects of PCOS?

People with PCOS are at a higher risk for certain long-term conditions, including ovary torsion (twisted ovaries), endometrial (uterine) cancer, insulin resistance (which is linked to Type 2 diabetes), and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). While PCOS increases the chances of these health complications, regular visits with your doctor can help you manage, treat, and prevent them.

If you have any questions about treating your PCOS using birth control you can speak with the doctors at Twentyeight Health. You can sign up here and if you have any questions feel free to contact us at or 929-352-0060.

With the participation of
Dr. Eddie Garcia

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