Approach to the Patient: Contraception in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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Yildiz B. O.

JOURNAL OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGY & METABOLISM, vol.100, no.3, pp.794-802, 2015 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive and metabolic disorder. Patients with PCOS present with clinical signs of androgen excess (ie, hirsutism and acne), menstrual irregularities, and infertility. Combined oral contraceptive (OC) pills are the first-line medical therapy for the long-term management of PCOS. Containing a combination of estrogen and progestin, OCs restore regular menses, improve androgen excess, and provide effective contraception and protection from endometrial cancer. The benefits of hormonal contraception outweigh the risks in the vast majority of women with PCOS. However, concerns have been raised about potential adverse cardiovascular and metabolic effects of OCs. Currently available evidence indicates an increased relative risk of venous thrombosis associated with OCs varying among different formulations. Arterial thrombosis risk attributable to OCs does not appear to be significantly increased in young nonsmoking women. OC use might be associated with increased risk of diabetes in morbidly obese women with PCOS with severe insulin resistance. A tailored clinical approach to oral contraception in women with PCOS requires individualized risk stratification and management by determination of each PCOS patient's personal cardiometabolic risk profile at baseline and during follow-up. Before prescribing an OC, clinicians should document individual risk factors including age, smoking, obesity, any degree of glucose intolerance including prediabetes and diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, thrombophilia, and personal or family history of a venous thromboembolic event.