Which medications in the drug class Oral Contraceptives are used in the treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Updated: Sep 19, 2019
  • Author: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptive agents reduce the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland by decreasing the amount of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). All oral contraceptives decrease ovarian androgen production. By inhibiting gonadotropin secretion and, therefore, tertiary follicle development, ovarian secretion of testosterone and androstenedione is decreased. All oral contraceptives increase sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and, therefore, reduce free testosterone. Evidence indicates that high doses of contraceptive progestins may inhibit 5-alpha reductase. Oral contraceptives also decrease the production of adrenal androgens, particularly dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S).

Different contraceptive preparations have different effects on ovarian androgen production and SHBG. However, they all reduce levels of free testosterone equally (by approximately 50%). Free testosterone levels achieved with oral contraceptive preparations are unrelated to the increased levels of SHBG. Preparations that result in higher SHBG levels also result in higher total testosterone levels. That is, a decrease in free testosterone level is the same for all oral contraceptives and, although some of these preparations increase SHBG levels more than others, this is off-set by a concomitant increase in total testosterone level.

Restoration of regular menstrual cycles prevents endometrial hyperplasia associated with anovulation. Oral contraceptives also improve acne and hirsutism.

Ethinyl estradiol

Ethinyl estradiol reduces the secretion of LH and FSH from the pituitary by decreasing the amount of GnRH. Use ethinyl estradiol 30-35 mg combined with any form of progesterone. Restoration of the regular menstrual cycles prevents endometrial hyperplasia associated with anovulation. Improvement of hyperandrogenic effects are seen in 60-100% of women, but usually, at least 6-12 months of use are required. Perform a pregnancy test before therapy. If the patient has had no menstrual period for 3 months, induce withdrawal bleeding with medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera) 5-10 mg/day for 10 days; then, begin therapy with oral contraceptives.

Medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera, Provera)

Medroxyprogesterone has no effect on androgen production. Progestins stop the proliferation of endometrial cells, allowing organized sloughing of cells after withdrawal.

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