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NIH study suggests progestin in infertility treatment for women with PCOS may be counterproductive

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 5 million women in the United States and can occur in girls as young as 11 years old, according to the most recent data from the federal Office on Women’s Health.

Women with PCOS produce excessive amounts of the hormone androgen, which inhibits ovulation and can cause fluid-filled sacs to develop on the ovaries. The conditions is the most common cause of female infertility. For women with PCOS who are undergoing infertility treatment, physicians may administer the hormone progestin in a single course before drug treatment begins.

But new research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows using progestin in infertility treatment for women diagnosed with PCOS may decrease the odds of becoming pregnant. In the study, researchers analyzed data from a 2007 study and compared the effectiveness of ovulation induction combined with advance progestin treatment to that of ovulation induction alone. According to an NIH release:

The researchers found...that women who skipped the progestin treatment before receiving fertility drugs were four times more likely to conceive than were women given progestin. Ultimately, 20 percent of the women who did not receive progestin gave birth, compared with about 5 percent of the women who received progestin.

Interested to know more about the implication of the findings on fertility research and treatments, I contacted Lynn Westphal, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford. She commented on the study, saying:

These are very interesting findings that need to be confirmed with a prospective study. If confirmed, these results will change how we manage our PCOS patients, and perhaps other infertile women, needing ovulation induction.

Previously: Patients turning to acupuncture to boost fertility, New York Times shows how Stanford researchers solved the “egg maturation puzzle” and Stanford researchers help awaken sleeping egg-producing cells

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