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Best birth control for PCOS

Methods of birth control like the combined contraceptive pill, the mini pill and the intrauterine system (IUS) can help with symptoms of PCOS in some people. But what is the best birth control for PCOS?

Keep reading to learn more about birth control for PCOS symptom management.

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine or hormone disorder. PCOS affects approximately 1 in 10 people with ovaries in the UK.

PCOS displays as a collection of symptoms including; acne, oily skin, lack of or irregular periods, lack of ovulation, excess hair growth, insulin resistance, increased testosterone levels and fertility issues.

There is no cure for PCOS, and birth control is a common treatment to manage symptoms.

>> Read more | PCOS 101: ultimate guide to PCOS

Types of birth control

There are many different types of birth control ranging from hormonal to non-hormonal. Here are the most common types of birth control.

Combined contraceptive pill

Hormonal: oestrogen and progesterone

This is often referred to as ‘the pill’. It is a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, which are naturally produced in the ovaries.

You usually take this pill once daily usually at the same time for 21 days, followed by a 7 days break where you will have a bleed, known as a withdrawal bleed.

Mini pill

Hormonal: progesterone only

This is a progestogen-only pill taken every day with no breaks in between packs. This is usually the choice if you can’t use hormonal birth control that contains oestrogen.

Intrauterine device (IUD): copper coil

Non-hormonal

This is often referred to as the ‘coil’ or ‘copper coil’. This is a T-shaped small plastic and copper device inserted into your uterus by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

This can last for 5 to 10 years depending on the type of device. This works by releasing copper into the womb. 

Intrauterine system (IUS): hormonal coil

Hormonal: progesterone

An IUS is a small, plastic T-shaped device inserted into the uterus. An IUS is similar to an IUD but releases progesterone into the uterus, rather than copper.

Contraceptive ring

Hormonal: oestrogen and progesterone

The contraceptive ring is a plastic ring. It releases a continued dose of oestrogen and progesterone into the bloodstream.

Contraceptive patch

Hormonal: oestrogen and progesterone

The contraceptive patch is a small patch that looks like a plaster (bandaid) and releases oestrogen and progesterone. Each patch lasts for 1 week.

Contraceptive implant

Hormonal: progesterone

The implant is a flexible plastic rod inserted into the arm. It releases progesterone into the bloodstream and lasts up to three years.

Contraceptive injection

Hormonal: progesterone

The contraceptive injection releases progesterone into the bloodstream.

This form of birth control usually lasts between 8-13 weeks depending on the brand. If used correctly, the contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective.

What is hormonal birth control and how does it work?

Hormonal birth control are types of birth control methods that use the hormones progesterone or oestrogen or both to protect against pregnancy. They work by preventing ovulation or by thickening cervical mucus or both.

Can birth control help PCOS?

According to NICE guidelines, if someone with PCOS is experiencing prolonged amenorrhea (less than one period every three months), or abnormal bleeding then treatment options include hormonal contraception to induce a withdrawal bleed.

This may help regulate the hormonal imbalance and menstrual cycle, which in turn can help with the hormone-related symptoms associated with PCOS such as heavy menstrual bleeds, acne and excess hair growth.

It is also important to mention that birth control can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. People with PCOS are 2.7% more likely to develop either of these cancers.

What is the best birth control for people with PCOS?

For symptom management, the best birth control for people with PCOS is a hormonal birth control. If excess hair growth is a concern, choose a birth control with both oestrogen and progesterone such as the combined pill, the patch or the ring.

But to find the best birth control for you, there are many factors to consider including age, health, medication and lifestyle. Your doctor will advise you on the best birth control for you. You may need to try different birth controls to find one that works for you and your symptoms.

Hormonal birth control can also bring side effects, such as headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding so it is important to find a birth control that reduces your symptoms, rather than adding more.

It is important to trial your birth control as per your doctor’s instructions but if it’s not working for you then you do not need to suffer in silence. Speak to your doctor and find out what other treatments for PCOS are available for you.

FAQ: best birth control for PCOS

Which brand of pill is best for PCOS?

As the first line of treatment for PCOS is the combined oral contraceptive pil (COCPl, there are various COCP brands to choose from including:
– Microgynon
– Rigevidon
– Yasmin
– Cilique
– Eloine
– Mercilon

Key takeaways: best birth control for PCOS

The best birth control for PCOS is the birth control that works for you, your lifestyle and your symptoms. Experts recommend the combined contraceptive pill as a first-line management technique for people with PCOS. Speak to your doctor to determine which birth control is best for you.

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Sophia Boothby RD Author at The PCOS Collective

Lead Author | Head Dietitian | Registered Dietitian

 
Sophia is a Registered Dietitian working as a Specialist Community Dietitian within a London NHS Teaching Hospital specialising in gut health such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the low FODMAP diet, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, and cardiac rehabilitation. Sophia offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.

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