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Can Ozempic Help with PCOS?

Published on
Updated on
Can Ozempic Help with PCOS?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that occurs in up to 15% of females worldwide and is characterized by an irregular menstrual cycle, high levels of testosterone, and may produce cysts on the ovaries. 
  • Ozempic is a GLP-1 agonist medication used for treating type 2 diabetes that works by regulating blood sugar levels and slowing digestion.
  • Research shows that Ozempic can help with weight loss and insulin sensitivity, making it a possible option for managing PCOS. However, more large-scale clinical trials are needed.

GLP-1 medications have grown in popularity due to their beneficial effect on insulin function, blood sugar management, and weight loss.

If you have PCOS, you may be wondering if a GLP-1 medication is an option for you. 

Ozempic is a GLP-1 medication primarily used for treating type 2 diabetes but is now being studied by researchers in the context of PCOS.

Some studies show it may help manage PCOS symptoms and improve insulin resistance. 

Continue reading to learn more about PCOS management and if Ozempic could be an effective treatment option. 

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What Is PCOS? 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition in females.

It involves irregular menstrual periods, hyperandrogenism, and, in some cases, cysts on the ovaries. 

Hyperandrogenism is when a person has high levels of certain hormones, like testosterone.

It can result in symptoms like:

  • Hirsutism (hair growth on the face.)
  • Alopecia (hair loss.) 
  • Acne. 

PCOS is associated with infertility as a result of hormone abnormalities. 

Additionally, insulin resistance is common, affecting up to two-thirds of people with PCOS.

Insulin resistance can increase the risk of conditions like:

  • Prediabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome. 
  • Obesity. 

While there’s no cure for PCOS, there are multiple treatment options available to help you reach your health goals and have a successful pregnancy if desired. 

How Is PCOS Treated? 

Treatment for PCOS may involve a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, and supplements.

Your treatment plan will depend on your health goals and whether you would like to become pregnant in the future. 

Lifestyle Changes

Nutritional goals for PCOS focus on addressing insulin resistance and weight management by encouraging an eating pattern that is:

  • High-fiber.
  • Plant-based.
  • Low in saturated fat. 

Specifically, eating anti-inflammatory and low-glycemic index foods has been shown to benefit PCOS. 

Regular physical activity can also help with insulin resistance and improve outcomes in this condition. 

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Supplements

Some providers recommend supplements to help manage PCOS, such as myoinositol and berberine.

These supplements may improve insulin sensitivity, but they aren’t appropriate for everyone because they interfere with several types of prescription medications. 

Talk to your doctor before starting any over-the-counter supplements for PCOS.

Medications

The most common treatment doctors recommend for PCOS is hormonal birth control, which helps manage menstrual irregularities and symptoms of hyperandrogenism. 

Metformin is another medication that doctors use to manage PCOS because it helps insulin resistance and decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It may also help with weight management and fertility.

Your provider may also recommend a GLP-1 agonist medication, like Ozempic, to treat PCOS. 

What Is Ozempic and How Does It Work? 

Ozempic is a GLP-1 receptor agonist medication that contains the active ingredient, semaglutide.

It’s available as a once-weekly injectable pen in doses up to 2 milligrams.

Ozempic was originally created to help treat type 2 diabetes.

Doctors can now prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss because it works similarly to other GLP-1 medications that are FDA-approved for weight management, like Wegovy and Saxenda.

Ozempic works by activating the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor, which helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

It also slows the rate at which your stomach empties, resulting in fewer blood sugar spikes and a lower appetite. 

Along with diet and lifestyle changes, Ozempic can support weight management goals by helping you feel full longer after meals and improving insulin sensitivity (how well your cells respond to insulin). 

Does Ozempic Help PCOS Symptoms?

Insulin resistance and obesity are common in PCOS and are thought to be involved with many of the condition’s symptoms. 

Because Ozempic and other GLP-1 medications can help manage weight and improve insulin sensitivity, researchers are studying them as a treatment option for PCOS. 

Research suggests that decreasing body weight in overweight individuals with PCOS can improve the following symptoms and conditions: 

  • Hyperandrogenism. 
  • Reproductive function.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Blood sugar management. 
  • High blood pressure. 

Studies show that GLP-1 medications can help with weight management, reduce testosterone levels, and improve ovulation regularity in people with PCOS. 

GLP-1 medications may help insulin function in PCOS by targeting inflammatory pathways and improving beta cell function (the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin).

Unfortunately, because Ozempic is not FDA-approved for weight loss, people may experience high out-of-pocket fees when taking the medication for managing PCOS.

Available Research on Ozempic for PCOS

Multiple studies have found that GLP-1 medications, like Ozempic, can be effective tools for managing PCOS, though research is mixed. 

A 2017 study identified that after 12 weeks of taking a GLP-1 medication, participants with PCOS experienced reductions in weight and insulin resistance.

They also had more regular menstrual cycles and a higher pregnancy rate than those given a standard treatment.

Another 2017 study examining the effect of GLP-1 medication on PCOS found that while insulin resistance was unchanged, participants had improvements in:

  • Body weight. 
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD.)
  • Testosterone levels. 
  • Blood sugar levels. 

It’s important to consider that while GLP-1 medications, in general, have shown benefits for people with PCOS, semaglutide (Ozempic) has not been extensively studied in this population.

Most of the studies are on other GLP-1 medications like liraglutide (Saxenda).

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Ozempic vs Metformin for PCOS

Some research shows that GLP-1 agonists may be even more effective for PCOS than Metformin.

A 2019 systematic review compared GLP-1 agonists with Metformin for treating PCOS.

It found that patients who took the GLP-1 medications experienced more significant improvements in insulin resistance, body mass index, and waist circumference. 

However, it’s important to note that Metformin can be taken in people with PCOS who become pregnant, while Ozempic is not recommended during pregnancy. 

Understanding the Connection Between PCOS and Insulin Resistance 

When learning how Ozempic might work for PCOS, it can be helpful to understand the role of insulin resistance in PCOS.

High levels of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) can be a contributing factor in the development of PCOS.

Hyperandrogenism that commonly occurs in PCOS can lead to weight gain, which can further increase insulin resistance and other PCOS symptoms. 

The more severe the insulin resistance becomes, the more it exacerbates the hyperandrogenism, resulting in a vicious cycle. 

Potential Side Effects of Ozempic

If your doctor has prescribed Ozempic to you, it’s important to be aware of the possible side effects, which are primarily digestive.

The most common side effects of Ozempic are: 

At least 5% of participants in the clinical trials experienced these symptoms.

Nausea was the number one side effect, with over 20% of people reporting it at the one-milligram dose of Ozempic.  

Side effects are most likely when you first start taking the medication and each time you increase the dosage per your doctor’s instructions. 

Less frequent side effects of Ozempic (occurring in <5% of people) include: 

  • Upset stomach. 
  • Burping. 
  • Gas. 
  • Acid reflux
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining.)

Certain people should not take Ozempic, including those with a personal or family history of thyroid cancer

Other GLP-1 Treatment Options for PCOS

If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, Ozempic may not be an option for you due to insurance coverage.

However, you may qualify for a different GLP-1 mediation. 

There are currently two GLP-1 drugs that are FDA-approved for weight management purposes– Saxenda and Wegovy. 

Wegovy contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic but at a higher dose.

Saxenda contains the active ingredient liraglutide, which has a similar action to Ozempic. 

Talk to your doctor about whether a GLP-1 medication is right for managing your PCOS.

Takeaway

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by an irregular menstrual cycle, high levels of testosterone, and cysts on the ovaries (in some cases).

Insulin resistance and weight gain are common features of the condition. 

Ozempic is a GLP-1 medication that may help treat PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity, body weight, and other symptoms.

However, research is mixed and primarily focuses on other GLP-1 medications, like Saxenda (also known as liraglutide).

Managing PCOS and Weight with an RD 

Navigating a PCOS diagnosis can feel overwhelming.

In addition to identifying a treatment plan with your doctor, it can be valuable to work with a PCOS dietitian to create a balanced meal plan to help you meet your health goals. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best weight loss medication for PCOS?

There are multiple medication options to help manage weight and other symptoms of PCOS.

Metformin is a common medication prescribed for PCOS.

Growing in popularity are GLP-1 medications, like Ozempic and Saxenda. 

Some research suggests that GLP-1 medications may be more effective for managing weight in PCOS than Metformin.

Talk to your doctor about which option is most appropriate for you.

Does semaglutide help with PCOS?

Semaglutide is a GLP-1 medication available in the brand name drugs Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus.

Research shows that GLP-1 medications may help people with PCOS lose weight along with improving insulin resistance and other symptoms of PCOS.

However, much of this research is on liraglutide (Saxenda), a different GLP-1 medication that works similarly to semaglutide.

More large-scale clinical trials are needed to understand how semaglutide may help treat PCOS.

Does Ozempic affect hormones?

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a GLP-1 agonist medication, which means it works by mimicking GLP-1, the natural hormone found in your digestive tract. 

As a result, Ozempic helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels while slowing the rate at which your stomach empties.

It can also help you feel full longer, which may promote weight loss.

References

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