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Management of PCOS

Good management of PCOS can greatly reduce the symptoms and the long-term effects on your health.

Working in a partnership with your doctor, and other care providers, is an important part of managing PCOS. Some symptoms will worry some women more than others. Discuss with your doctor what your main concerns or priorities are, so that together you can decide on the best treatment plan for you.

Topics on this page

Management goals

The aims of managing your PCOS will include:

  • providing care that is individualised to your needs
  • reducing symptoms
  • improving psychological and emotional heath
  • preventing related long-term health conditions
  • assisting with fertility and improving pregnancy outcomes, if required.

The keys to achieving good management of PCOS include:

  • a good understanding of PCOS
  • a healthy approach to eating and physical activity
  • appropriate medical therapies.

Team approach

Research shows that women with PCOS who receive care from a number of health professionals, rather than just one, can have better health outcomes. Because PCOS can have many symptoms, a range of treatments might be necessary to manage the condition well. This is where a team approach can help.

Various health professionals who specialise in specific areas of treatment might become involved in your management. They might include a:

  • general practitioner/doctor (primary care co-ordinator)
  • dietitian – supports a healthy dietary intake
  • exercise physiologist – supports an active lifestyle
  • nurse practitioner – provides educational support
  • endocrinologist – provides specialist care for hormonal conditions
  • gynaecologist – provides specialist care for reproductive health
  • fertility specialist – provides specialist care to assist in becoming pregnant
  • dermatologist – provides specialist skin care (for acne or excess hair growth)
  • counsellor and/or psychologist – provides psychological support.[1]

Your doctor can coordinate your care with the range of health professionals that is right for you and provide you with referrals where needed.

Three women professionals working together

Managing PCOS with lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle has been shown to be the most effective approach to managing PCOS successfully and reducing the severity of symptoms. A healthy lifestyle includes eating a balanced and nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being as active as possible, and minimising harmful habits such as smoking and excessive drinking.

A healthy diet will ensure you get an adequate intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Check out our Healthy living page for more information and what and when to eat.

Weight

If you are overweight, losing 5-10% of your body weight can have a significant impact on PCOS symptoms.

Losing excess weight has been shown to:

  • reduce insulin and testosterone levels,
  • improve regularity of periods,
  • improve fertility,
  • reduce excessive hair growth and acne, and
  • improve psychological wellbeing.

It also reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Some women with PCOS report that when they are a healthy weight, they don't have some of the symptoms of PCOS. It is only if they regain excess weight that the symptoms return.[1]

Learn more here how you can manage your weight.

Physical activity

Being physically active is very important in managing PCOS. It has been shown to improve symptoms and reduce the risk of developing related long-term health conditions.

For women with PCOS, there are many benefits of regular exercise, including:

  • increased energy levels and fitness
  • improved self-confidence and motivation
  • reduced anxiety and depression
  • reduced insulin resistance
  • improved menstrual regularity and fertility
  • help with weight maintenance or weight loss.

Research has shown any type of regular exercise is effective in improving PCOS symptoms. Whether it is moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise or resistance (using weights) exercise, women’s PCOS symptoms will improve.

Find more information and tips on what to eat, when to eat, types of exercise and how much exercise to do here.

Group girls table smiling pcos booklet

PCOS booklet

Read more on PCOS in our booklet 'Understanding polycystic ovary syndrome: All you need to know'

Managing PCOS with medical therapies

There are a number of different medical therapies used to manage PCOS symptoms.

The therapies used to manage such symptoms as irregular periods, fertility challenges, excess hair, acne and excess weight can include:

  • the oral contraceptive pill
  • insulin-sensitising drugs, such as metformin
  • hormones that are called gonadotrophins
  • testosterone-lowering drugs
  • weight-loss drugs
  • antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety drugs.

Information on these medical therapies can be found in the webpages for each of the different symptoms of PCOS:

Managing PCOS with natural & complementary therapies

More than 70% of women with PCOS in Australia use natural and complementary therapies to improve one or more aspect of their health.

Research reports that women with PCOS use these therapies most commonly to improve their general wellbeing and to treat infertility and depression. The natural remedies most commonly used include supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and fish oils, and herbal medicine in the forms of teas, tablets or liquid.

The types of treatments and remedies used in natural and complementary therapies often depend on the woman’s main concern(s). For example, the treatment for excess hair growth might be different from a treatment used to improve fertility.

There is currently only a small amount of research that has looked at the effectiveness of natural remedies specifically in women with PCOS.

Read more about these treatments and the research findings at Management of PCOS symptoms with natural therapies.

Taking action

When it comes to management of PCOS, it is important to:

  • Seek accurate health information from trusted sources to help your decision making
  • Treat the physical symptoms of PCOS
  • Discuss your mood and psychological wellbeing with your doctor
  • Optimise your lifestyle
  • Seek the best quality health care you can
  • Prioritise what is most important to you and let your doctor know this.
0919 jh factsheet pcos THUMB

PCOS fact sheet

Includes information on how to improve PCOS symptoms and manage your long-term health.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at September 2019.

References

  • 1
    Monash University. International evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. 2018. Melbourne, Australia.
  • 2
    McCartney CR, Marshall JC. Clinical practice: polycystic ovary syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(1):54–64.
  • 3
    Goodman NF, Cobin RH, Futterwelt W, Glueck JS, Legro RS, Carmina E et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Endocrinology, and Androgen Excess and PCOS Society Disease State Clinical Review: guide to the best practises in the evaluation and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome – Part 1. Endocr Pract. 2015 Nov;21(11):1291–300.
  • 4
    Marsh K, Brand-Miller J. The optimal diet for women with polycystic ovary syndrome? Br J Nutr. 2005;94(2):154–65. doi: 10.1079/BJN20051475.
  • 5
    Teede HJ, Misso ML, Deeks AA, Moran LJ et al. Assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome: summary of an evidence-based guideline. MJA. 2011;195(6):S65-112.
  • 6
    Moran LJ, Ko H, Misso M, Marsh K, Noakes M, Talbot M et al. Dietary composition in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systemic review to inform evidence-based guidelines. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(4):520–45.
  • 7
    Orio F, Muscogiuri G, Giallurias F, Savastanono S, Bottiglieri P,Tafuri D et al. Oral contraceptives versus physical activity and metabolic risk factors in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomised controlled trial. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2016 Nov;85(5):764–71.
  • 8
    Galletly C, Moran L, Noakes M, Clifton P, Tomlinson L, Norman R. 2007. Psychological benefits of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome – a pilot study. Appetite. 2007 Nov;49(3):590–3.
Last updated: 18 November 2020 | Last reviewed: 01 September 2019

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