Polycystic ovary syndrome: Birth control may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

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The study suggests that women with polycystic ovary syndrome, taking combined birth control, had a 26 percent lower risk of dysglycemia, abnormality in blood sugar stability. This condition that affects the blood is linked to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The study published in Diabetes Care has found that combined oral contraception might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, in particular.

The researchers said the study presents a potential treatment for the abnormality in blood sugar stability in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome.

The authors from the University of Birmingham executed a retrospective population-based study, using a UK case database to determine the risk of dysglycemia.

They looked at 64,051 women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome as well as 123,545 people without the condition.

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They adjusted the research based on age, social deprivation, body mass index, ethnicity and smoking.

The authors estimated that women with polycystic ovary syndrome have twice the risk of the condition affecting blood sugar compared to those without the syndrome.

After discovering this, they used the same database – only fewer women- to carry out an investigation into the use of the combined oral contraceptive pill in relation to dysglycemia.

This part of the research, focusing on only women with the syndrome, revealed that those on combined oral birth control had a 26 percent lower risk of dysglycemia.


Another important finding of the study is that “normal weight” women with polycystic ovary syndrome were also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, according to one of the authors.

Co-senior author of the study Wiebke Arlt said: “We knew from previous, smaller studies, that women with PCOS have an increased risk of T2DM [type 2 diabetes].

“However, what is important about our research is that we have been able to provide new evidence from a very large population-based study.

“To show, for the very first time, that we have a potential treatment option — combined oral contraceptives — to prevent this very serious health risk.”

The authors highlight that there’s a need for a large-scale study looking into the efficacy of combined oral contraceptives in reducing the risk of dysglycaemia in women with polycystic ovaries syndrome to definitively establish the cause.

This study would also need to consider any potential additional benefit of combined oral contraception containing antiandrogenic progestin components.

The researchers believe that androgen excess in women with the syndrome might boost the increased metabolic risk of diabetes.

This contradicts previous findings that metabolic complications mainly affect obese people with polycystic ovary syndrome.

What is a combined oral contraceptive pill?

Often referred to as just “the pill”, it contains artificial versions of oestrogen and progesterone.

The pill prevents the ovaries from ovulating, as well as thickens the mucus in the womb so it’s harder for sperm to reach an egg and it thins the womb lining so there’s less of a chance for the egg to implant.

It’s over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancies if used correctly.

Through the NHS, contraception is free to everyone.


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