There are a number of ways to manage the symptoms and the impact of PCOS, so after diagnosis it is important to seek help as soon as you can.
The keys to managing PCOS well include:
- A good understanding of how it's caused and the effect of PCOS on the body
- A healthy approach to eating and physical activity
- Appropriate medical therapies
Managing PCOS with lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is one of the most important aspects of managing PCOS successfully.
A healthy diet will ensure you are getting an adequate intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Loss of excess weight may reduce the severity of some symptoms and will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Even a 5-10% weight loss can have significant health benefits, including improved mood and fertility, more regular menstrual cycles and a reduced risk of diabetes.
Being physically active increases energy levels, helps with self-confidence and motivation and reduces anxiety and depression.
While every bit of physical activity helps, the guidelines recommend that women with PCOS exercise at least 150 minutes per week, of which 90 minutes should be aerobic activity at moderate to high intensity (60-90% of maximum heart rate).
Managing PCOS with medical therapies
There are a number of different medical therapies used to manage the different symptoms of PCOS, including for periods, fertility, excess hair, acne and weight
These therapies may include:
- the oral contraceptive pill
- insulin sensitising drugs such as Metformin
- hormones that are called gonadotrophins
- testosterone lowering drugs
- weight loss drugs
- anti-anxiety drugs.
Information on these different medical therapies can be found in the webpages for each of the different symptoms of PCOS:
Managing PCOS with natural & complementary therapies
Complementary therapies include herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, aromatherapy, reflexology, and remedial therapy such as massage and kinesiology.
A small number of studies have been performed on the effects of Chinese herbal medicine and herbal supplements on reproductive symptoms (fertility and ovulation for example) and insulin resistance in PCOS. In these studies, the complementary therapy (such as chromium picolinate) has often not been compared directly to the effect of a standard treatment (lifestyle or medical), so it is difficult to say how effective these treatments are.
One study that did compare complementary therapy to standard or no treatment found that acupuncture improved ovulation rate and reduced androgen excess in women with PCOS. Chinese herbal medicines, however, did not improve the majority of fertility outcomes in women with PCOS.
As yet, these results are preliminary. Larger, controlled, clinical studies are needed before any comment is made on the usefulness of complementary therapies either in combination with or instead of current therapy for women with PCOS.
Such remedies should only be prescribed by an experienced qualified practitioner, preferably with an interest in women's health and PCOS. Tell your doctor or specialist about all complementary therapies you are taking.
Actions you can take
When it comes to management of PCOS:
Last updated 24 April 2018 — Last reviewed 20 April 2017
** Currently under review **
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 April 2017.