Birth control pills are a common form of contraception for women in the United States but may also be used to aid in managing irregular menstrual cycles or handling other types of hormonal imbalances. For women who live with hormonal complications that include insulin resistance, there may be a marked risk when using birth control pill especially if there is a risk for polycystic ovary syndrome.
PCOS is a health complication that can affect a woman’s ability to not only get pregnant but may also impose hormonal imbalances that make menstrual cycles irregular. If you find that your menstrual cycles are irregular, and you are taking birth control pills, the irregularity may be a sign that you have PCOS which is not readily apparent because birth control pills may hide the signs of PCOS.
Signs of poly cystic ovary syndrome include more than your irregular menstrual cycles. In addition, you may also experience complications with excessively oily skin, oily hair, problems with sleep and even experience a sudden weight gain. While birth control pills can produce these results, often they are a sign of PCOS and your birth control pills may be improperly identified as the culprit of your symptoms.
To accurately diagnose PCOS, your doctor should run a series of tests including a glucose tolerance test that is typically done as part of a full work up for diabetes. Insulin resistance is common in women who have PCOS and your glucose tolerance test may provide abnormal results. If you find that your glucose tolerance test is showing that you have insulin resistance, ask your doctor if PCOS is a health concern and, if so, you may need to change or modify your form of birth control.
In addition to your glucose tolerance testing, you doctor may want to perform an ultrasound to confirm the symptoms of PCOS. Typically, on ultrasound, poly cystic ovary complications can be seen but in some women, there may need to be further work up. PCOS can be painful which another method by which diagnosis can be made is.
Any complications of menstruation can lead to long term complications in women when not diagnosed properly. If you are struggling with menstrual irregularity, and you are at-risk for PCOS, using birth control pills may only complicate the health condition. When struggling with a variety of hormonal based symptoms ask your doctor about testing for PCOS and consider discontinuing birth control pills until the condition can be accurately diagnosed.
Sources: Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2008: 9: 11-14.