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Treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

While there is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), treatments can help ease the symptoms.

The aim of your treatment will depend on your situation. If you want to get pregnant, treatment will focus on your fertility. If you do not, treatment will focus on managing your symptoms.

Lifestyle management

To improve your symptoms, you can try:

If the physical symptoms of PCOS are making you feel anxious or depressed or giving you low self-esteem, a combination of self-care and medical or psychological treatments may help. Talk to your GP about treatment options.

Excessive hair growth and acne

If you do not have too much facial and body hair, you may be able to control it with cosmetic methods such as plucking, waxing, or using depilatory creams which dissolve the hair. All of these methods are temporary. Electrolysis and laser therapy are more permanent but can be expensive. You may need more than one treatment.

If these treatments do not work for you, you might need medication, such as those listed below.

The combined oral contraceptive pill reduces androgen levels and provides you with contraception.

Other medicines include anti-androgen drugs such as spironolactone or cyproterone acetate. They slow down hair growth and make the hair finer. They may take up to six months to work, and the effect gradually wears off if you stop taking them. They're not recommended if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Insulin resistance

Metformin has been used for many years to treat diabetes. We also use it to treat PCOS. It probably works by reducing the amount of insulin in your blood, which means your ovaries make less of the male-type hormones.

If you're overweight, losing weight can also improve insulin resistance, make your periods more regular and improve your hormones.


Treatment can help if PCOS is making you infertile. If you're more than a healthy weight, losing weight and keeping more physically active will also improve fertility.

There are also drugs that can stimulate ovulation (releasing an egg), such as clomifene. If you do not become pregnant using clomifene, your doctor may also suggest you take metformin. It may help make your periods more regular and increase the chances clomifene will lead to ovulation.

If these treatments do not work, your doctor may suggest other medications or refer you to a fertility specialist.

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On the next page: Eating well with polycystic ovary syndrome

Written by the Department of Endocrinology, Christchurch Hospital. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created September 2021.


See also:

Irregular periods

Overview of the female reproductive system

Page reference: 884131

Review key: HIPCO-15994